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Oiviston..„D.L S^O 

No. .V^ \ 

No. 2 


Translated by Marjory Wardrop 

Cr. Sz'o, pp. xii+ 175. 5^. net. 

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Legend of Perseus 


Edwin Sidney' Hartland 


VOL. I. 

Published by David Nutt 

in the Strand, London 


Edinburgh : T. and A. Constable, Printers to Her Majesty 


The classical myth of Perseus belongs to a group of folk- 
tales ranking among the foremost in interest for the student 
of the evolution of human thought and human institutions. 
It is compounded, like other folktales, of incidents which 
have varied in their order and prominence, as well as in 
their mode of presentment, at different times and in dif- 
ferent lands. What constitutes its importance is the fact 
that certain of these incidents are grounded upon ideas, 
universal in their range, and found fully developed in the 
depths of savagery, which, rising with mankind from plane 
to plane of civilisation, have at last been embodied in the 
faith and symbolism of the loftiest and most spiritual of 
the great religions of the world — the religion of civilised 
Europe. The figure of Perseus, the god-begotten, the 
dragon-slayer, very early became a type of the Saviour of 
the World ; while the conception underlying the Life-token 
(an incident not extant in classical sources) obtained its 
ultimate expression in the most sacred rite of Christian 

In these volumes I have attempted an examination of 
the myth upon scientific principles. The first three 


chapters of the present volume are devoted to an account 
of the story, as given by the poets and historians of anti- 
quity, and in modern folklore. Taking, then, the four 
chief incidents in order, the remaining chapters comprise 
an inquiry into analogous forms of the Supernatural Birth, 
alike in tale and custom, throughout the world. They will 
be followed by similar inquiries into the incidents of the 
Life-token, the Rescue of Andromeda, and the Quest of the 
Gorgon's Head. Having thus analysed the incidents, and 
determined, so far as the means at my command will 
permit, their foundation in belief and custom, and the 
large part played by some of the conceptions in savage life, 
I shall return to the story as a whole, and, treating it as an 
artistic work, I shall inquire whether it be possible to 
ascertain what was its primitive form, where it originated, 
and how it became diffused over the Eastern continent. 

I am deeply sensible of the difiiculties of the task I have 
undertaken, and of the very imperfect way in which I have 
hitherto performed it. Unfortunately, I cannot hope to 
succeed better in that portion which has yet to be laid 
before the reader. All I can hope is that I may have 
exhibited, however inadequately (if further exhibition were 
needful), the advantage for psychological purposes of re- 
search into the ideas and the usages of uncultured peoples 
and of the less cultured classes in civilised communities. 

My sincere thanks are due to many friends who have 
rendered me valuable assistance from time to time ; among 
others to Miss Marian Roalfe Cox, who has been kind 


enough to supply me with abstracts of several variants 
of the tale — some of them not readily accessible ; to Mr. 
W. H. D. Rouse, M.A., and Mr. G. L. Gomme, F.S.A., 
President of the Folklore Society, to whom I am indebted 
for help on some important points ; to Dr. Oscar W. Clark 
for calling my attention to various interesting superstitions ; 
to the Rev. R. H. Codrington, D.D.,for his ready response 
to my questions; and last, but not least, to Mr. Alfred Nutt, 
for his kindness in reading the proof-sheets, and for the 
suggestions and help he is so well qualified to give in many 
departments of folklore, particularly in all matters relating 
to Celtic literature and tradition. In making this acknow- 
ledgment, of course, 1 do not seek to shift from my own 
shoulders any portion of responsibility for the opinions I 
have expressed. In some of those opinions all the friends 
whose aid has been thus generously rendered would 
probably agree. Perhaps none of them would accept all. 
Our common possession is the single desire for truth and 
a perennial interest in everything which may cast light on 
the past — and the future — of humanity. 

For the reader's convenience I have compiled a list of 
the modern works cited, with such bibliographical informa- 
tion as will admit of the editions used being readily iden- 
tified. An index will be issued in the concluding volume ; 
and meanwhile it is hoped the list of contents will be found 
to contain a sufficient analysis of the chapters. 

Barnwood Court, Gloucester, 
Jzine 1894. 



List of Works rp:ferred to xiii 


The Legend of Perseus as preserved in Classical 
Writers — Its three trains of incident — The 
Danae type of the Story in Modern Folklore 

The classical story of Perseus — Its localisation in Greece, 
in Latium and at Joppa — References by Herodotus 
— The Assyrian hero, Gilgames — References by 
/Elian — The three leading trains of incident — 
Modern folktales — The Danae type in Italy and 
Greece — The Irish saga of Balor and MacKineely — 
German, Swedish, and Russian stories. 


The Story in Modern Folklore— The King of the 

Fishes type 24 

The Breton tale of The King of the Fishes — Four trains 
of incident here developed — Variants in Lorraine, 
Tirol, Gascony — The Wonderful Pike and other 
Scandinavian variants — Greek story — The Argyll- 
shire tale of the Sea Maiden — A German variant — 
The Enchanted Hind in the Pentameron, and its 
variants in Italian folklore — Slavonic and Gipsy 
tales — Sanskrit tale. 




The Remaining Types of the Story .... 47 

The Mermaid type— Scottish, Lithuanian, and Sicilian 
tales— The Gold Children type— German, Flemish, 
Italian, and Breton tales— The Tower of Babylon 
type—The Enchanting Bird type— Variants in the 
Tirol, Normandy, and the Lowlands of Scotland — 
The Knife-grinder's Sons type— Found in the Tirol 
and Germany — A favourite type among Slavonic 
peoples — Kabyle and Italian variants — The En- 
chanted Twins type— Variant from East Africa — 
Abruzzian and Swabian variants— Saint George type 
— Stories from Portugal and Lorraine. 


The Incident of the Supernatural Birth in Marchen 71 
Stories of Supernatural Birth are world-wide— Only 
examples analogous to those in the variants of 
Perseus to be dealt with — Birth caused by some- 
thing eaten or drunk— Fish — Fruit and cereals — 
Drugs — Portions of human corpses — Flowers and 
leaves — Water and other liquids— Birth caused by 
scent — By touching flowers, herbs, and other things 
— Zulu story of aid by pigeons— Conception by rays 
of the sun— By a wish. 


The Supernatural Birth in Sagas .... 

Stories of Supernatural Birth not only told for amusement 

but believed to be true— The eating of fish a rare 

cause— The eating of fruit and cereals frequently 



found in both hemispheres— Indian and Mongolian 
stories — Heathen and Christian elements in the 
fiftieth rune of the Kalevala—Y^IA, the Thlinkit 
hero— Heitsi-Eibib, the Hottentot ancestor-god— 
Birth of Vikramaditya— Siamese tradition— Other 
Mongolian traditions— Irish legends— Impregnation 
by drinking— By eating portions of human bodies— 
By smell— By touching stones and other magical 
substances— By saliva — Conception by the foot — 
Pictures of the Annunciation— Birth of Quetzal- 
coatl — Conception by bathing— Saoshyant — Anti- 
christ — Conception by wind, rain, and vapour— By 
the sun— Legend of Genghis Khan— Impregnation 
by a glance— Birth from a clot of blood. 


The Supernatural Birth in Practical Superstitions 147 

The supernatural means of conception in the stories 
actually believed to be still effectual— Practices to 
obtain children — Vedic ceremonies— The eating of 
fruit, cereals, and leaves— The mandrake— Animal 
substances eaten— Salt— Drinking of water— Sacred 
wells— Drinking of blood— Eating of portions of 
human bodies— Bathing — Exposure to the rays of 
the sun— Striking of childless women— Amulets— 
PhalHc symbols and their use — Simulation as a 
magical practice — Fertilisation by wind— Imperfect 
recognition by savages of paternity. 


Death AND Birth as Transformation .... 182 
Birth often merely a new manifestation of a pre-existing 
person— The Egyptian tale of The Two Brothers 
— European and other variants — Transformation 


in mcirchen — The Singing Bone — The Scottish 
ballad of Einnorie — Santal variants — New birth of 
dead man from eating a portion of his body — Meta- 
morphosis of dead man into a tree in mdrckefi, 
saga, and superstition — Origin of maize and of 
manioc — Attis — Metamorphosis into animal forms 
— Savage doctrine of Transformation — Buddhist 
popular belief— Alleged Celtic dogma of Transmi- 
gration — Taliessin — Tuan mac Cairill — Etain — Son 
a new birth of the father or other ancestor — 
Superstitions current in India, Africa, the South 
Seas, Europe, America — The naming of children — 
Transformation the creed of savages. 

The Vignette on the title-page is from the well-known 5th century 
bowl from Caere, figured by Gerhard, Berl. Winckelmann Progr. 



Note. — In the notes Roman numerals placed before the name of a 
work or author indicate the volume, placed after \.)\t. name indicate 
the book or chapter, cited ; Arabic numerals generally indicate 
the page or verse. 

Allen, Grant, Attis. The Attis of Caius Valerius Catullus 

Translated into English Verse, with Dissertations on 

the Myth of Attis, on the Origin of Tree-Worship, and 

on the Galliambic Metre by Grant Allen, B.A. London, 

Am Urquell. Am Urquell. Monatschrift fiir Volkkunde. 

Herausgegeben von Friedrich S. Krauss. 4 vols. Wien, 

1890-3. [Still proceeding.] 
Anthropologie. L'Anthropologie paraissant tous les deux mois 

sous la direction de MM. Cartailhac, Hamy, Topinard. 

4 vols. Paris, 1890-93. [Still proceeding.] 
Antiquary. The Antiquary : a Magazine devoted to the Study 

of the Past. 29 vols. London, 1880-94. [Siill proceeding.] 
Archivio. Archivio per lo Studio delle Tradizioni Popolari. 

Rivista trimestrale diritta da G. Pitre e S. Salamone- 

Marino. 12 vols. Palermo, 1882-93. [Still proceeding.] 
Arch. Rev. The Archaeological Review. 4 vols. London, 

Asbjornse?!. Norwegische Volksmarchen, gesammelt von 

P. Asbjornsen und Jorgen Moe. Detitsch von Friederich 

Bresemann. 2 vols. Berlin, 1847. 


Aubrey, Miscellanies. Miscellanies upon Various Subjects. 

By John Aubrey, F.R.S. London, 1857. 
AUNING. Ueber den lettischen Drachen-Mythus (Puhkis). 

Ein Beitrag zur lettischen Mythologie von Robert 

Auning. Mitan, 1892. 
Bahar-Danush. Bahar-Danush ; or Garden of Knowledge. An 

Oriental Romance. Translated from the Persic of Einiaut 

Oollah. By Jonathan Scott. 3 vols. Shrewsbury, 1799. 
Bancroft. The Native Races of the Pacific States of North 

America. By Hubert Howe Bancroft. 5 vols. London, 

Basile. Lo Cunto de li Cunti (II Pentamerone) di Giambattista 

Basile. Testo conforme alia prima stampa del 1634-6 con 

introduzione e note di Benedetto Croce. Vol. I. Napoli, 

1 891. [Only one volume yet pubHshed.] 
Bent, Cyclades. The Cyclades or Life among the Insular 

Greeks by J. Theodore Bent, B.A. London, 1885. 
Berenger-Feraud. Traditions et Reminiscences Populaires 

de la Provence (Coutumes, Legendes, Superstitions, etc.). 

Par Berenger-Feraud. Paris, 1886. 
Blade, Agenais. Contes Populaires recueillis en Agenais par 

M. Jean-Frangois Blade. Paris, 1874. 
Contes Pop. Gasc. Contes Populaires de la Gascogne, par 

M, Jean-Francois Blade. 3 vols. Paris, 1886. 
Bl(itt. J. Ponim. Volksk. Blatter fiir Pommersche Volks- 

kunde. Monatschrift fiir Sage und Marchen [etc.]. Heraus- 

gegeben von O. Knoop und Dr. A. Haas. vols. Stettin. 

BoTTlCHER. Der Baumkultus der Hellenen nach den gottes- 

dienstlichen Gebrauchen und den uberlieferten Bildwerken 

dargestellt von Carl Boetticher. Berlm, 1856. 
Braga, Contos. Theophilo Braga. Centos Tradicionaes do 

Povo Portuguez. 2 vols. Porto, n.d. 
Brinton, Amer. Hero-Myths. American Hero-Myths. A 

Study in the Native Religions of the Western Continent. 

By Daniel G. Brinton, M.D. Philadelphia, 1882. 


Brinton, Lendpe. The Lenape and their Legends ; with 
the complete text and symbols of the Walam Glum, 
a new translation, and an inquiry into its authenticity. 
By Daniel G. Brinton, A.M., M.D. Philadelphia, 

Myths. The Myths of the New World A Treatise 

on the Symbolism and Mythology of the Red Race of 
America by Daniel G. Brinton, A.M., M.D. New York, 

Browne, Vulgar Errors. Pseudodoxia Epidemica : or 
Enquiries into very many received Tenents and commonly 
presumed Truths. By Thomas Browne, Doctor of Physick. 
London, 1646. 

Btdl. de F.L. Bulletin de Folklore Organe de la Socidte du 
Folklore Wallon. 2 vols. London, 1892-3. [Still pro- 

Burton, Gelele. A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome by 
Richard F. Burton. 2 vols. London, 1864. 

Nights. A plain and literal translation of the Arabian 

Nights Entertainments, now entituled The Book of the 
Thousand Nights and a Night, with introduction, ex- 
planatory notes [etc], by Richard F. Burton. 10 vols. 
Privately printed, 1885. 

^— Suppl. Nights. Supplemental Nights to The Book of the 
Thousand Nights and a Night with notes anthropological 
and explanatory by Richard F. Burton. 6 vols. Privatel} 
printed, 1886-S8. 

Wanderings. Wanderings in West Africa from Liverpool 

to Fernando Po. By A F.R.G.S. 2 vols. London, 

— Wit and Wisd. Wit and Wisdom from West Africa, 

compiled by Richard F. Burton. London, 1865. 

Busk, Sagas from the Far East. Sagas from the Far East ; 
or Kalmouk and Mongolian Traditionary Tales. With 
historical preface and explanatory notes. By the Author 
of "Patranas," etc. London, 1873. 


Callaway, Rcl. Syst. The Religious System of the Amazulu. 
Isinyanga Zokubula ; or Divination, as existing among 
the Amazulu, in their own words, with a translation into 
English, and notes. By the Rev. Canon Callaway, M.D. 
Natal, 1870. 

Tales. Nursery Tales, Traditions, and Histories of the 

Zulus, in their own words, with a translation into English, 
and notes. By the Rev. Canon Callaway, M.D. Vol. I. 
London, 1868. [Only one vol. published.] 

Campbell. Popular Tales of the West Highlands orally 
collected with a translation by J. F. Campbell. 4 vols. 
Edinburgh, 1860-62. 

Campbell, 5rt:^z/«/i^ 7". Santal Folk Tales. Translated from 
the Santali by A. Campbell. Pokhuria, 1891. 

Carnoy. Contes Frangais recueillis par E. Henry Carnoy, 
Paris, 1885. 

Casalis. Les Bassoutos ou vingt-trois annees de sejour et 
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Cavallius. Schwedische Volkssagen und Marchen. Nach 
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von Gunnar Olof Hylten Cavallius und George Stephens. 
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Chambers, Pop. Rhymes. Popular Rhymes of Scotland. 
Robert Chambers. London, 1870. 

Child. The English and Scottish Popular Ballads edited by 
Francis James Child. 8 parts. Boston, N.D. [1882-92, 
still proceeding.] 

CODRINGTON. The Melanesians. Studies in their Anthropo- 
logy and Folklore by R. H. Codringion, D.D. Oxford, 

COELHO. Contos Populares Portuguezes colligidos por 
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COMPARETTL Noveiline Popolari Italiane pubblicate ed illus- 
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Comptc-Rendu du Congrcs. Congres International des Tradi- 
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Congress Report. The International Folklore Congress, 1891. 
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Alfred Nutt. London, 1892. 

COSQUIN. Emmanuel Cosquin. Contes Populaires de la 
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County F.L., Suffolk. County Folklore. Printed Extracts. 
No. 2 : Suffolk. Collected and edited by the Lady Eveline 
Camilla Gurdon. London, 1893. [Folklore Society.] 

Cox, Miss, Cinderella. Cinderella. Three hundred and forty- 
five variants of Cinderella, Catskin, and Cap o' Rushes, 
abstracted and tabulated, with a discussion of mediseval 
analogues, and notes, by Marian Roalfe Cox. London, 

Crane. Italian Popular Tales by Thomas P^ederick Crane, 

A.M. London, 1885. 
Crantz. The History of Greenland : containing a Description 

of the Country and its Inhabitants. By David Crantz. 

Translated from the High Dutch. 2 vols. London, 1767. 
CURTIN, Russians. Myths and Folktales of the Russians, 

Western Slavs and Magyars by Jeremiah Curtin. London, 

Cymvirodor. See F Cymmrodor. 

Dalton. Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal, by Edward Tuite 

Dalton, C.S.I. Col. Calcutta, 1872. 
D'Arbois de Jubainville, Cycle Myth. Le Cycle Mytholo- 

gique Irlandais et la Mythologie Celtique, par H. DArbois 

de Jubainville. Paris, 1884. 
Epopee Celtique. L'Epopee Celtique en Irlande, par H. 

DArbois de Jubainville. Vol. I. Paris, 1S92. [One volume 

only yet published.] 
Dasent. Popular Tales from the Norse by Sir George 

Webbe Dasent, D.C.L. Edinburgh, 1888. 


Davids. See Rhys Davids. 

Day. Folktales of Bengal by the Rev. Lai Behari Day. 

London, 1883. 
De Charencey, Le Fils de la Vierge. Le Fils de la Viergc 

par H. de Charencey. Havre, 1879. 
Trad, rel. Les Traditions relatives au Fils de la Vierge 

par H. de Charencey. Paris, 1881. 
De Gubernatis. Le Novelline di Santo Stefano raccolte da 

Angelo de Gubernatis. Torino, 1869. 
Zool. Myth. Zoological Mythology or The Legends of 

Animals by Angelo de Gubernatis. London, 1872. 
De Gubernatis, T7'ad. Pop. Le Tradizioni Popolari di S. 

Stefano di Calcinaia raccolte da Alessandro de Gubernatis. 

Roma, 1894. [Includes a new edition of the Novellinei\ 
De Nino. Usi e Costumi Abruzzesi descritti da Antonio de 

Nino. 5 vols. Firenze, 1879-91. [The first volume bears 

only the title Usi Abruzzesi^ 
Dknnys. The Folklore of China, and its Affinities with that of 

the Aryan and Semitic Races. By N. B. Dennys, Ph.D., 

F.R.G.S. London, 1876. 
De Rochemonteix. Quelques Contes Nubiens par Maxence 

de Rochemonteix. Cairo, 1888. 
Dorman. The Origin of Primitive Superstitions and their 

Development into the Worship of Spirits and the Doctrine 

of Spiritual Agency among the Aborigines of America. 

By Rushton M. Dorman. Philadelphia, 1881. 

Early Trav. Early Travels in Palestine, comprising the 
narratives of Arculf, Willibald [etc.]. Edited with notes 
by Thomas Wright, Esq., M.A., F.S.A. London, 1848. 

Elliot, TV. W. Prov. Memoirs on the History, Folklore, and 
Distribution of the Races of the North Western Provinces 
of India ; being an amplified edition of the original 
Supplemental Glossary of Indian Terms by the late Sir 
Henry M. Elliot, K.C.B. Edited, revised, and rearranged 
by John Beames, M.R.A.S. 2 vols. London, 1869. 


Ellis, Polyn. Res. Polynesian Researches, during a resi- 
dence of nearly eight years in the Society and Sandwich 
Islands. By William Ellis. 4 vols. London, 1831. 

Ewc-spcakiug Peoples. The Ewe-speaking Peoples of 

the Slave Coast of West Africa Their Religion, Manners, 
Customs, Laws, Languages, etc. By A. B. Ellis. London, 

Tshi-speaking Peoples. The Tshi-speaking Peoples of the 

Gold Coast of West Africa. Their Religion, Manners, 
Customs, Laws, Language, etc. By A. B. Ellis. London, 

Yoriiba. The Yoruba-speaking Peoples of the Slave 

Coast of West Africa Their Religion, Manners, Customs, 
Laws, Language, etc. By A. B. Ellis. London, 1894. 

Feather^LVN. Social History of the Races of Mankind. By A. 
Featherman. 7 vols., not numbered, but distinguished as 
follows : — ist Division : Nigritians. 2nd Division : Papuo- 
and Malayo-Melanesians. 2nd Division : Oceano-Melane- 
sians. 3rd Division : Aoneo-Maranonians. 3rd Division : 
Chiapo- and Guarano-Maranonians. 4th Division : 
Dravido-Turanians, Turco-Tatar-Turanians, Ugrio-Turan- 
ians. 5th Division : Aramaeans. London, 1881-91. 

FiNAMORE. Tradizioni Popolari Abruzzesi raccolte da Gennaro 
Finamore. 2 vols. [Vol. L in 2 parts, separately paged.] 
Lanciano, 1882-86. 

Trad. Pop. Abr. Tradizioni Popolari Abruzzesi raccolte 

da Gennaro Finamore. Torino, 1894. [A separate work 
from, but apparently a continuation of, the above.] 

P'.L.Joicrn. The Folk-lore Journal. 7 vols. London, 1883-S9. 

[Organ of the Folklore Society.] 
F.L. Record. The Folk-lore Record. 5 vols. London, 1878-82. 

[Organ of the Folklore Society.] 
Folklore. Folk-Lore, a Quarterly Review of Myth, Tradition, 

Institution, and Custom. 4 vols. London, 1890-93. 

[Organ of the Folklore Society, still proceeding.] 


Frazer, Golden Bough. The Golden Bough A Study in 

Comparative Rehgion by J. G. Frazer, M.A. 2 vols. 

London, 1890. 
Frere. Old Deccan Days ; or Hindoo Fairy Legends current 

in Southern India. Collected from Oral Tradition by 

M. Frere. London, 1870. 
Friend. Flowers and Flower Lore. By the Rev. Hilderic 

Friend, F.L.S. 2 vols., paged continuously. London, 


Garnett, Women. The Women of Turkey and their Folk-lore 

by Lucy M. J. Garnett. 2 vols. London, 1890-91. 
Gerv. Tilb. Des Gervasius von Tilbury Otia Imperialia. In 

einer Auswahl neu herausgegeben und mit Anmerkungen 

begleitet von Felix Liebrecht. Hannover, 1856. 
GiBB. The History of the Forty Vezirs or The Story of the 

Forty Morns and Eves written in Turkish by Sheykh- 

Zada done into English by E. J. W. Gibb, M.R.A.S. 

London, 1886. 
Giles. Strange Stones from a Chinese Studio. Translated 

and annotated by Herbert A. Giles. 2 vols. London, 1880. 
GONZENBACH. Sicilianische Marchen. Aus dem Volksmund 

gesammelt von Laura Gonzenbach. 2 vols. Leipzig, 1870. 
Grimm, Tales. Grimm's Household Tales. With the Author's 

Notes Translated from the German and edited by 

Margaret Hunt. 2 vols. London, 1884. 
Tent. Myth. Teutonic Mythology by Jacob Grimm 

Translated from the Fourth Edition with Notes and 

Appendix by James Steven Stallybrass. 4 vols., paged 

continuously. London, 1880-88. 
Grinnell, Blackfoot L.T. Blackfoot Lodge Tales The 

Story of a Prairie People by George Bird Grinnell. 

London, 1893. 
Grundtvig. Danische Volksmarchen. Nach bisher unge- 

druckten Quellen erzahlt von Svend Grundtvig. Ueber- 

setzt von Willibald Leo. 2 vols. Leipzig, 1885. 


GUPPY. The Solomon Islands and their Natives, By H. 15. 
Guppy, M.B., F.G.S. London, 1887. 

Hahn, Tsimi-\\goam. Tsuni-||goam the Supreme Being of 
the Khoi-Khoi by Theophilus Hahn, Ph.D. London, 

Haltrich. Deutsche Volksmiirchen aus dem Sachsenlande 
in Siebenbiirgen. (^esammelt von Josef Haltrich. Wien, 

Hanway. An Historical Account of the British Trade over 
the Caspian Sea : with a Journal of Travels through Russia 
into Persia and back again through Russia Germany and 
Holland. By Jonas Hanway, Merchant. 4 vols. London, 

HODGETTS. Tales and Legends from the Land of the Tzar. 
A Collection of Russian Stories. Translated from the 
original Russian by Edith M. S. Hodgetts. London, 

Hunter, Rural Bengal. The Annals of Rural Bengal. By 
W. W. Hunter, CLE., LLD. London, 1883. 

Imbriani. La Novellaja Fiorentina Fiabe e Novelline Steno- 
grafate in Firenze dal dettato popolare da Vittorio Imbriani. 
Ristampa accresciuta di molte novelle inedite, [etc.,] nelle 
quale e accolta integralmente La Novellaja Milanese 
dello stesso raccoglitore. Livorno, 1877. 

Im Thurn. Among the Indians of Guiana being Sketches 
chiefly anthropologic from the Interior of British Guiana 
by Everard F. im Thurn, M.A. London, 1883. 

Internat. Archiv. Internationales Archiv fiir Ethnographie. 
6 vols. Leiden, 1888-93. [Still proceeding.] 

Jacobs, Celtic F.T. Celtic Fairy Tales selected and edited 

by Joseph Jacobs. London, 1892. 
Indian F. T. Indian Fairy Tales selected and edited by 

Joseph Jacobs. London, 1892. 


James, The Lo7tg White Mountaijt. The Long White Moun- 
tain A Journey in Manchuria with some Account of the 
History, People, Administration and Religion of that 
Country. By H. E. M. James. London, 1888. 

Jeremias, Izdubar-Nimrod. Izdubar-Nimrod. Eine altbaby- 
lonische Heldensage. Nach den Keilschriftfragmenten 
dargestellt von Dr. Alfred Jeremias. Leipzig, 1891. 

Jevons, Phctardi's Roinane Q,uestio7is. Plutarch's Romane 
Questions. Translated A.D. 1603 by Philemon Holland, 
M.A., Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Now again 
edited by Frank Byron Jevons, M.A. With Dissertations 
on Italian Cults [etc.]. London, 1892. 

Joitrn. Am. F.L. The Journal of American Folklore. 6 vols. 
Boston, 1888-93. [Organ of the American Folklore 
Society, still proceeding.] 

Joicrn. Anthrop. I?isi. The Journal of the Anthropological 
Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 23 vols. London, 
1872-94. [Still proceeding.] 

Joiirn. A7ithr. Soc. Journal of the Anthropological Society 
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Jonrn. Ethnol. Soc, N.S. Journal of the Ethnological Society 
of London. Published quarterly. 2 vols. London, 1869-70. 

Kathd. The Kathd-sarit-Sagara or Ocean of the Streams of 
Story translated from the original Sanskrit by C. H. 
Tawney, M.A. 2 vols. Calcutta, 1880-84. 

Kaindl. Die Huzulen. Ihr Leben ihre Sitten und ihre 
Volksiiberlieferung geschildert von Dr. Raimund Fried- 
rich Kaindl. Wien, 1894. 

Kalevala. Kalewala, das National-Epos der Finnen, nach 
der zweiten Ausgabe ins Deutsche iibertragen von Anton 
Schiefner. Helsingfors, 1852. 

Klunzinger. Upper Egypt : its People and its Products. A 
Descriptive Account of the Manners, Customs, Superstitions 
and Occupations of the People of the Nile Valley [etc.]. 
By C. B. Klunzinger, M.D. London, 1878. 


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IN The Earthly Paradise William Morris has made 
English the Doom of King Acrisius in such lovely wise, 
and in the main with such close adherence to the story 
as told by Ovid and other classical writers, as to render 
thankless the task of repeating it at length. But in under- 
taking an inquiry into the foundations and history of the 
legend of Perseus, it is needful to bear in mind its salient 
features. I shall therefore ask the reader's patience for a 
summary of these. 

Acrisius, the son of Abas and king of Argos, having been 
warned by an oracle that he should die by the hands of his 
daughter Danae's son, built a tower of brass in which he 
imprisoned the maiden, that he might keep her celibate and 
so frustrate the oracle. Jupiter, however, visited her in a 
shower of gold; and she bore a son, Perseus. By the 
king's orders, mother and babe were enclosed in a chest 
and cast into the sea. The chest came to land on the 
island of Seriphos, and was drawn ashore by a fisherman 


named Dictys. Polydectes, the king of the island, took 
Danae under his protection, and in process of time desired 
to marry her. For this purpose he found it necessary first 
to get rid of her son. He accordingly set him the task of 
cutting off and bringing to him the head of Medusa, the 
only mortal of the three Gorgons, hoping, of course, that he 
would perish in the attempt. But the youth had friends in 
high places. Pallas provided him with a buckler brightly 
polished as a mirror, Pluto with a helmet of invisibility, 
Mercury with his own winged shoes, and Vulcan with a 
sword. Thus equipped, he set out on his adventure. 
Reaching the dwelling of the Graice, he possessed himself 
of the single eye which these three hideous sisters owned 
among them and passed from hand to hand, and thus 
compelled them to direct him where he might find the 
Gorgons. The chief danger of the expedition was Medusa's 
power of turning to stone with a glance all who approached 
her. Perseus escaped this danger by coming upon her 
asleep, and by regarding her in his shield while he swept off 
her head with his sword. On his way back, with the prize 
deposited safely in his wallet, he visited Atlas, the giant 
king of Libya ; but, receiving scant hospitality, he repaid it 
by trying the power of the Gorgon's head on the king and 
his servants, and so converted them into the mountain 
range on whose huge top the heaven with all its stars (so 
the gods willed) has ever since reposed. Flying thence 
over land and sea, he descried Andromeda, the daughter of 
Cepheus, king of Ethiopia, and of his wife, Cassiope, bound 
to the rock. He descended, and learned that she was thus 
exposed to a marine monster to be devoured, in obedience 
to an oracle of Jupiter Amnion. The monster had been 
sent by Neptune to ravage the country, in order to revenge 


a boast by Cassiope that she herself was equal to the 
Nereids in beauty. Perseus fought and killed the instru- 
ment of divine vengeance, and wedded Andromeda. The 
wedding feast, however, was disturbed by Cepheus' brother, 
Phineus, to whom Andromeda had been betrothed, and 
who, though he had stood by while she was being bound 
and made no effort to save her, now came with a band of 
followers to claim his bride from her deliverer. He attacked 
Perseus and broke up the banquet with a bloody fight, de- 
scribed in much detail by Ovid, which was only ended by 
the hero's producing Medusa's head and petrifying his foes. 
Perseus, with his bride, afterward sailed for Argos, where 
he restored his grandfather, who had been dethroned by 
Proetus, his own brother ; and, passing on, he reached 
Seriphos just in time to save his mother, Danae, from 
Polydectes. He turned the tyrant to stone, and gave the 
realm to the faithful Dictys. The oracle in reference to 
Acrisius was fulfilled later, at Larissa, on the occasion 
of the funeral games celebrated by Teutamias, king of 
Thessaly, for his father. Perseus, throwing a quoit in one 
of the contests, accidentally struck his grandfather on the 
head and killed him.^ 

This is the substance of the story that engaged the genius 
of some of the greatest poets of antiquity. I have followed 
in the main Ovid's narrative ; but the only parts he deals 
with at length are the episodes of Atlas and Andromeda. 
The absurdities and impossibilities of the tale were as 
obvious as its beauties to the ancients themselves; and 
many were the attempts to rationalise it. We need not 
concern ourselves with these. For our immediate purpose 

^ Ovid, Metam., iv. 604 ; Strabo, x. 5 ; Pausanias, ii. 16; Lucian, 
Sea-gods y xiv. 


the interest lies in the locahsation of the different scenes 
and the variations we can trace of its episodes. 

Perseus, hke other Greek national heroes, was the object 
of worship. The chief seat of his cult seems to have been 
the isle of Seriphos, where it was believed that not only 
Polydektes, but also most of the inhabitants with him, were 
petrified by the dead Gorgon's glances. The later coinage 
of the island exhibited Medusa's head ; and the peasants, 
when they find such coins now, relate that they are the 
coins of the first queen of the island, who dwelt in the 
mediaeval castle upon the scarped hill above the port of 
Livadhi.i Next to Seriphos, Argos and Mykene honoured, 
as was natural, the hero. He had ruled the one and 
founded the other. The name of Mykene was believed to 
record the place where he dropped the sheath of his sword ; 
and a fountain, which bore his name, marked the spot 
where it fell. A different derivation of the name of Mykene 
is given in the lost work of Ctesias the Ephesian on Perseus. 
He there attributes it to the bellowing (ixvKijOfios) made by 
Stheno and Euryale, the sisters of Medusa, in their impotent 
rage against the hero, whom they pursued as blood-avengers 
to this spot, and here finally abandoned the pursuit as 
hopeless.2 At Argos his tomb was shown ; and in the forum 
there, beneath a barrow of earth, it was claimed that the 
awful trophy of his victory over the Gorgon lay — the trophy 
which, according to another version of the legend, was for 
ever fixed in Athene's shield, the most dangerous of her 

1 Pausanias, ii. i8 ; Bent, 77ie Cydades, 2. 

- Pausanias, ii. 16 ; Plutarch, Rivers and Moiintaim^ xviii. , Inachus. 
An inscription was discovered not very long ago at Mykene, testifying 
to the v/orship of Perseus there, xxvi. The Antiquary, 192, citing an 
article by Dr. Tsoundas in the Ephemeris Archceologike. 


weapons. Elsewhere the Argives showed a subterranean 
building containing a brazen bedchamber, said to have been 
that made by Akrisios for his daughter — a variation from 
the brazen tower of the story usually current.^ 

But Argos and Seriphos were not allowed to monopolise 
the sacred scenes of Perseus' life. The city of Ardea in 
Latium disputed with Seriphos the honour of being the 
refuge of Danae 'pregnant with almighty gold.' From her, 
according to Vergil, Turnus, who competed with /Eneas for 
Lavinia's hand, derived his lineage, ^ Although Andromeda's 
father is described as king of Ethiopia, the general consent 
of antiquity laid the scene of her rescue at Joppa. Near 
that town was a fountain wherein the hero washed away 
the stains of the combat, and whose water was coloured 
ever after by the monster's blood.^ Upon the rocks which 
bounded the haven were pointed out the marks left by the 
maiden's chains ; and Marcus Scaurus, when aedile, brought 
from Joppa, and exhibited at Rome, the bones of the 
monster. A rumour of this event seems to have reached 
the forger of Sir John Maundeville's travels, for he relates 
that the place was still shown where the great giant 
Andromeda was fastened with chains before the Flood, and 
not only the place where he was confined, but one of his 
ribs measuring forty feet in length ! ^ It is evident that he 
took pains to ascertain the exact truth. 

In Egypt and in Persia, the Father of History found tra- 
ditions of a personage identified with Perseus. " According 

^ Pausanias, ii. 21, 23. 

2 Vergil, ALneid, vii. 371. See also Preller, ii. Ro?n. Myth.^ 330. 
'^ Pausanias, iv. 35. 

^ Josephus, Warsy iii. 9; Pliny, Nat. Hist.^ v. 14; ix. 4; Maunde- 
ville, c. 4. 


to the Persian story," he tells us, " Perseus was an Assyrian 
who became a Greek ; his ancestors, therefore, according 
to them, were not Greeks. They do not admit that the 
forefathers of Akrisios were in any way related to Perseus, 
but say they were Egyptians, as the Greeks likewise testify." 
And elsewhere he represents Xerxes as telling the Greeks 
that Perses, from whom he claimed descent, was the 
child of Perseus, the son of Danae, and of Andromeda, 
the daughter of Kepheus— a statement apparently accepted 
by the historian, as well as by other Greek writers.^ Both 
these stories probably were Assyrian in origin, and obtained 
currency, first among the Persians and afterwards among 
the Greeks, from political causes. In the latter story 
Kepheus is presented as the son of Bel. It is unlikely 
that the Achaemenian kings of Persia would have claimed 
descent from him, had they not been conquerors of 
Babylon. The Assyrian hero equated with Perseus in the 
former story we are fortunately enabled by recent dis- 
coveries to identify. He is no other than Gilgames, whose 
name was at one time transliterated as Izdubar, the hero of 
the epos from the library of King Assurbanipal, preserved 
in an imperfect form in the British Museum. The fragments 
we have of the tablets do not include the hero's birth. 
Upon this, however, the solution of the characters embody- 
ing his name has thrown unexpected light. For ^lian the 
rhetorician, writing in the third century of the Christian 
era, has transmitted to us an account of the birth of 
Gilgamos, whom he styles King of the Babylonians. 
According to this account, the Chaldeans predicted to a 
monarch, whose name is variously read as Sakchoros, 
Senechoros and Enechoros, that his daughter would have a 
1 Herod, vi. 53, 54 (I quote Rawlinson's translation) ; vii. 61, 150. 


son who would deprive his grandfather of the kingdom. 
Fearing this, he ordered her to be kept in close confine- 
ment. His precautions were vain, for fate was cleverer 
than the Babylonian king. His daughter bore a son whose 
father was unknown. No sooner was the infant born than 
her guards threw it down, for fear of the king, from the 
citadel wherein she was immured. But an eagle, beholding 
the falling child, darted beneath it, and, receiving it on its 
back, bore it gently to the ground in a certain garden. The 
gardener found the boy, and adopted him for his beauty. 
" If anybody think this a fable," says the rhetorician, eager 
to shuffle off all responsibility for it, " I admit I don't believe 
it myself; yet I am told that Perses the Achaemenian, from 
whom the noble stock of the Persians is derived, was an 
eagle's nursling." On examining the epos of Gilgames we 
recognise none of the adventures as those of Perseus. This 
may be owing to its imperfect preservation, or to its being 
a literary recension wherein only those parts of the story 
proper to the writer's purpose are combined. It can hardly 
be that the sole resemblance is in the circumstances of the 
hero's birth. On the other hand, the career of Gilgames 
has many points of likeness to that of Herakles.^ He 
rejoices in a divine origin and in the favour of the gods ; 
he conquers lions and monsters ; he triumphantly accom- 
plishes a journey to the other world. Now, a story of the 
rescue of a maiden similar to that by Perseus was told of 
Herakles. When Laomedon, king of Troy, had bound his 
daughter Hesione to a rock, to be devoured by a sea- 
monster sent by Poseidon, Herakles undertook her deliver- 
ance, and sprang full-armed into the fish's throat, whence 

1 ^lian, De Nat. Anim., xii. 21 ; Jeremias, Izdidmr-Niinrod, 
passim ; Smith, Chaldean Account of Genesis, passim. 


he hacked his way forth again after three days' imprison- 
ment, hairless.! We are left to conjecture that, if we had 
the traditions of Gilgames fully presented to us, we should 
not only have his birth as told by .^lian, but also some 
other features of his story linking it to that of Perseus- 
features that perhaps would at the same time explain why 
the king his grandfather is called an Egyptian. 

Herodotus seems to have attached more credit to the tale 
he found in Egypt. He describes the temple to the hero 
at Chemmis in the canton of Thebes, and mentions the 
games celebrated in his honour. The Chemmites, he says, 
claimed Perseus as Chemmite by descent, and related that 
on his way from the slaughter of the Gorgon he paid a visit 
to their city, acknowledged them for his kinsfolk, and 
instituted the games. They declared that he was in the 
habit of appearing to them, sometimes in his temple, at 
other times in the open country, and that one of the sandals 
he had worn was often found, measuring two cubits in 
length; and it was a sign of prosperity to the kingdom. 
There was also a watch-tower called by the name of Perseus 
near the Canopic mouth of the Nile.^ 

But, with regard both to the Persian and to the Egyptian 
tales, it must be borne in mind that all classical writers had 
a light-hearted way of calling foreign gods and heroes by the 
names of their own divinities, whenever they could get 
an excuse for so doing in the resemblances they traced, 
or fancied, either in attributes or legends. This practice 
has introduced endless confusion into their accounts, per- 

^ Tylor, i. Prim. Cidt.^ 306, citing Tzetzes ap. Lycophron's Cassandia; 
Diodorus Sic, iv. 

2 Herod, ii. 91, 15. If we may trust Diodorus Siculus (i.), the 
Egyptians claimed that Perseus was born in Egypt. 


functory at the best and often contemptuous, of the mytho- 
logies of other nations. If we learn little from the his- 
torian's references to the Persian, or Assyrian, tradition, we 
know less of that of the Egyptians; and, with all our 
discoveries, we have yet to find the clew to the object of 
veneration at Chemmis, and the legends clustered about 

Coming down to a later period, yElian makes mention 
of a fish caught in the Red Sea, and called Perseus equally 
by the dwellers on the shore, by the Greeks, and by the 
Arabs. He informs us that the latter honoured Perseus, 
the son of Zeus, and declared that it was from him this 
fish derived its name. He also describes a gigantic marine 
cricket, something like a rock-lobster, which many persons 
abstained from eating, because they deemed it sacred. 
The inhabitants of Seriphos, if they caught it in their nets, 
would not keep it, but returned it to the sea ; if they found 
one dead, they would bury it, weeping ; and they held that 
these creatures were dear to Perseus. The importance 
of these statements will appear hereafter. Another tradi- 
tion of Seriphos noticed by the same writer attributes the 
silence of the frogs (which never croaked) on the island to 
the prayers of Perseus, when they disturbed his sleep on 
his return from the contest with Medusa.^ The hero of 
the island would naturally be credited with many of its 

The general result is that legends identical in substance 
with that of Perseus were widely known in ancient times. 
From Persia to Italy, from cultured Greece to the barbar- 
ous shores of the Red Sea, a tale was told, a hero was 
celebrated, identified by Greek and Roman writers with 
1 iElian, De Nat. Anini., iii. 28, 37; xiii. 26. 


the son of Danae. The tale, however, was not told with- 
out variations, of which the underground chamber in the 
Argive territory and the escape of Danae to Ardea are 
specimens; while the hero's mysterious connection with a 
fish, or marine crustacean, points to another. 

The legend consists of three leading trains of incident, 
namely : — 

1. The Birth, including the prophecy, the precautions 
taken by Akrisios, the supernatural conception, the exposure 
of mother and babe, and the fulfilment of the prophecy by 
the death of Akrisios. 

2. The Quest of the Gorgon's Head, including the 
jealousy of Polydektes, the divine gift of weapons, the visit 
to the Graiae, the slaughter of Medusa, and the vengeance 
on Polydektes. 

3. The Rescue of Andromeda, including the fight with 
the monster and the quelling of Phineus, the pretender to 
the maiden's hand. 

Singly, these trains of incident appear in many traditions, 
sometimes in one form, sometimes in another. We shall 
consider them first in combination, with the object of 
tracing the legend in its wanderings and modifications. 
Afterwards, leaving out of account the surrounding details, 
we shall examine the central incidents, so as, if possible, to 
arrive at the ideas which underlie them. In other words, 
we shall first treat the story as a whole, and then analyse 
it into its component parts. A tale, however, in its passage 
through the world is susceptible of almost infinite modifica- 
tions. It will be obviously impossible in the analysis to 
deal with more than a few of these ; and I shall confine my 
attention to the above three leading trains of incident and 
one other, which appears in many modern versions, and 


which we shall find to be not the least important and 
interesting of the four. 

Considering the story as a story-whole, we may begin by 
reminding ourselves that the forms in which we receive it 
from Ovid and Lucian are literary forms of a pre-existing 
oral version. This version was probably the most widely 
accredited, though, as we have seen reason to think, not 
the only version current in classical times. And in trans- 
ferring our inquiries from literature to tradition, we shall be 
met by variations much wider than those manifested in 
ancient writings. On the other hand, we shall not be left 
without approximations to the form with which we are 
familiar there. 

Of these approximations, perhaps the closest was told a 
few years ago to Signor Giovanni Siciliano by an absolutely 
illiterate peasant woman of Pratovecchio in the Val d'Arno. 
It runs thus : — A childless king, praying for offspring, hears 
a voice asking him to choose between a son who will die 
and a daughter who will run away. By the advice of his 
subjects he chooses the latter ; and a daugliter is accordingly 
born. Some miles from his city the king has a palace in 
the midst of a fair garden. Thither he brings the child, 
with nurse and maid of honour, to keep her in safety ; and 
he and his wife visit the little one but rarely. No sooner, 
however, had she arrived at the age of sixteen than the son 
of King Jonah, passing by, saw her and bribed her nurse to 
let him have access to her. The young people fell in love 
with one another, and were secretly married. In due time 
the bride gave birth to a son ; and her father, learning this, 
refused to see her again. When the boy was fifteen years 
of age he went to find his grandfather, who would not so 
much as speak to him. He endured this silence for three 


or four months, and then demanded the reason for it, offer- 
ing the king, if he would tell him, to go and cut off the 
Witch's head for him. The king replied that this was just 
what he wanted him to do. Now, the witch in question was 
so terrible that all who looked at her became statues ; and 
the king hoped that the youth would perish in the adventure. 
But on the way he met an old man who gave him a flying 
steed, and directed him to a palace wherein dwelt two women 
who had only one eye between them, from whom he was to 
obtain a mirror. And the old man warned him always to 
regard the witch in the mirror, and never to look at her 
otherwise, lest he should become a statue. The flying steed 
carried the adventurer safely over a mountain inhabited by 
all sorts of wild and ravenous beasts ; and he arrived in due 
course at the palace of the one-eyed women. There, by 
possessing himself of the eye whfle one of them was hand- 
ing it to the other, he extorted the mirror which enabled 
him to accomplish the object of his journey. After cutting 
off the witch's head, he returned home another way; and 
coming to a seaport town he found a chapel by the sea-side, 
and a lovely maiden within it, clad in mourning garb and 
weepmg. She bids him depart, lest he also be eaten by the 
seven-headed dragon whereto she has been offered, and 
whose coming she is then awaiting. He refuses to leave 
her. Instead of doing so, he attacks the dragon on its 
rising from the sea, turns it to stone, and cuts out its seven 
tongues, which he ties up in a handkerchief and puts in his 
pocket. But, having delivered the lady, he ungallantly 
refuses to see her home, saying that he wishes to see a 
little more of the world. Before leaving her, however, he 
makes an appointment to return in six months. This 
inscrutable conduct gives opportunity to a cobbler, who 


meets her alone, to threaten her with death unless she will 
tell her father that he is the slayer of the dragon. Deprived 
of her champion, she is compelled to submit to the terms j 
but when her father offers her in marriage to her supposed 
deliverer, she pleads for a delay of six months. Then the 
king sent placards through all his cities, announcing his 
daughter's deliverance by a cobbler and her approaching 
marriage to him. Her real deliverer hears the placards, 
and returns to the capital just as the six months are expiring. 
He attends an audience, and inquires of the king how many 
heads the beast had, and whether the cobbler has any proof 
of his victory. The cobbler is summoned, and asked where 
are the dragon's seven tongues ? The damsel settles the 
question, however, by declaring that the youth it w^as who 
slew the dragon and cut out his tongues, and that the rascal 
of a shoemaker had taken her by force and compelled her 
to say that it was he. The shoemaker is promptly burned 
in the great square, and the hero married. He returns with 
his bride to his grandfather, to whom he shows the witch's 
head, with the inevitable result, and then fetches his father 
from the garden where he had himself been born.-^ 

That there should be so striking a resemblance between 
this story and that of the classical writers is not surprising to 
any one who realises the tenacity of popular traditions. It 
is not, indeed, necessary to suppose that it has been handed 
down from pagan times in Tuscany: it may only date, as 
a popular tale, from the revived paganism of the fifteenth 
and sixteenth centuries. If so, however, it would stand 
alone among Italian traditions, not one of which has been 
traced to the great movement known as the Revival of 
Learning, and a large number of which were already current 
^ Pilru, Nov. Pop. Toscane, i. 


while that movement was in progress. Tlie assumption, 
therefore, that the Tuscan tale is a relic of two thousand 
years or more does not seem unwarranted. Moreover, it 
is confirmed by an Albanian mdrchen^ obtained from the 
recital of a woman at Ljabovo in the district of Riga. It 
had been foretold, we learn, to a certain king that he 
should be put to death by his grandson, yet unborn. 
Wherefore he flung into the sea and drowned every boy 
born of his two daughters. The third boy, however, escaped 
with his life, and was cast by a wave on the shore, where he 
was found by two herdsmen and taken home to their wives 
to bring up. When he was in his twelfth year, beautiful 
and strong, a Lubia, or ogress, dried up all the waters ; and 
it was prophesied that she would never let them flow again 
until she had eaten the king's daughter. The maiden is 
accordingly bound in a certain spot, to await the Lubia ; 
but the hero of the story, accidentally finding her, learns 
the fate in store for her, and bids her fear not, but call him 
when the Lubia comes. Meanwhile he hides behind a 
rock, and covers himself with a cap, so that he is no longer 
visible. He slays the Lubia with his club \ and at the same 
moment the waters begin again to flow. The king offers 
his daughter in marriage to the victor ; and the hero proves 
his right to the reward by the possession of the Lubia's 
head. During the wedding games he throws his club and 
by mischance kills the king, thus fulfilling the prophecy, and 
himself becomes king in his stead. ^ 

Imperfections and confusion — especially the confusion 
between the king who is the hero's grandfather and him 
who is the father of the maiden exposed to the ogress — are 

1 ii. Von Halm, 114, 310. For particulars of the story-teller, see 
ib. 308. 


to be noted in this version. They are probably due to the 
reporter, or perhaps, as Von Hahn (to whom the story was 
supphed) suggests, to defects in the telhng. But it is clear 
withal that here, in another of the classic lands, the tale of 
Perseus has been preserved in its main features by oral 
transmission to this day. Whether it be due to the trun- 
cated character of this version that the hero's birth is not 
actually ascribed to a supernatural cause, it is difficult to 
say. In this omission it agrees with the Tuscan variant; 
but in both, the circumstances, though different from one 
another, are similar to those of Perseus. As we shall 
shortly meet with types of the story in which the cause and 
circumstances of the birth are broadly distinguishable from 
those of the two foregoing tales, we may classify the latter 
as belonging to the Danae type. 

The Albanian tale, it will be observed, omits the Quest 
of the Gorgon's Head. K modern Irish saga, on the other 
hand, omits the rescue of Andromeda ; and not only so, but 
modifies the supernatural birth, and identifies the hero's 
grandfather with the Gorgon. Tory Island was the strong- 
hold of a warrior, Balor by name, to whom a Druid had 
prophesied that he should be slain by his own grandson. 
Balor had two eyes, but not in the usual place. One of 
them was in the middle of his forehead, and the other in 
the back of his skull. The latter was venomous, and had 
the property of striking dead or petrifying all on whom its 
glances fell, wherefore it was usually kept covered. He had 
also an only daughter, Ethnea, whom, in consequence of 
the prediction, he kept secluded in an impregnable tower 
on the summit of Tor-more, an inaccessible rock at the 
eastern end of the island ; and he placed with her in the 
tower a company of twelve matrons, with strict orders to keep 


all men, and all knowledge of men, away from her. On the 
mainland, opposite the island, dwelt three brothers, Gavida, 
a famous smith, MacSamhthiann, and MacKineely. Balor, 
by a trick, robbed MacKineely of a wonderful cow whereon 
he set a high value ; and MacKineely was determined on 
revenge. His Leanan-sidhe, or familiar spirit, called Biroge 
of the Mountain, dressed him in woman's clothing, and 
wafted him on the wings of the storm across the Sound to 
the top of Tor-more, and there, knocking at the door of the 
tower, demanded admittance for a noble lady whom she 
had rescued from a tyrant. The matrons, fearing to dis- 
oblige the Banshee, admitted both to the tower. No sooner 
had MacKineely thus gained access to Ethnea than the 
Banshee, by her supernatural power, laid the twelve matrons 
asleep. When they awoke, the intruders were no longer 
there, and Ethnea had lost her maidenhood. In course of 
time she brought forth three sons, whom her father, on 
discovering, sent rolled up in a sheet, to be cast into a 
certain whirlpool. But on the way the pin fell out of the 
sheet, and one of the boys dropped into the harbour, where 
he was received by the Banshee and wafted safely across 
the Sound to his father, who sent him to be fostered by his 
brother Gavida. Balor, meanwhile, had learned from his 
Druid that MacKineely was the father of Ethnea's children, 
and now set forth to punish him. With a band of followers 
he landed at Ballyconnell, seized MacKineely, and, laying 
his head on a large white stone, cut it off with one blow of 
his sword. The blood gushed forth and penetrated the 
stone to its very centre, thus forming the red veins which 
are still shown to the traveller ; for the stone was raised 
in 1794, on a pillar sixteen feet high, and gives its name, 
Clogh-an-Neely, to a district comprising two parishes. Balor 


now thought himself secure, for he beUeved his three grand- 
sons were all drowned. But the heir of MacKineely grew 
up unknown to him at Gavida's forge, and became an 
accomplished smith. One day Balor came to the forge to 
get some spears made. Gavida was absent, and his foster- 
son did the work. In the course of the day Balor happened 
to mention with pride his conquest of MacKineely. It was 
an evil moment for him ; for the young smith, who had 
been nursing his revenge, watched his opportunity, and, 
taking a glowing rod from the furnace, thrust it through 
the basilisk eye and out through the other side of Balor's 
head, thus slaying his grandfather and fulfilling the Druid's 
prediction. 1 

For another story of the Danae type we must go as far 
as Germany ; and we must piece it out as well as we can 
from Grimm's notes to the tale of The Two Brothers, of 
which it is given as a variant. It is related in Hesse that a 
king's daughter was pursued by mice, until, in order to save 
her, he was driven to building a tow^er, like the Mouse-tower 
of the Rhine, in the midst of the river. There she dwelt 
with one maid. One day a jet of water springs in through 
the window, and fills a tub which they set for it. Both 
princess and maid drink of it, and afterwards bear each a 
son, one of whom is called Water-Peter and the other 
Water-Paul. Both children are put into a chest and floated 
down the stream. They are rescued by a fisherman, and 
taught hunting. Going out together, they spare successively 
three animals, a bear, a lion, and a wolf : in return, each of 
them is gifted with one of the creature's young. They part 
from one another, sticking their knives into a tree at the 

^ O'Donovan, i. Fou?' Masters, 18, note. The story was taken down 
by O'Donovan from the dictation of Shane O'Dugan in 1835. 



parting-place, as a token of life or death of the owner. 
Water-Peter comes to a town hung with mourning for the 
king's^daughter, who is to be offered up to a seven-headed 
dragon the next day. With the help of his beasts he slays 
the dragon ; and then, having cut out its tongues, he lies 
down and falls asleep, he and his animals, from weariness. 
The king's marshal, who has been set to watch, comes and 
finds the dragon dead and its slayer sleeping. He kills the 
hero, and compels the maiden to admit that he and no 
other had delivered her. Now the king has promised her 
in marriage to any one who would save her from the dragon ; 
but she succeeds in postponing the marriage for a year and 
a day. When the faithful beasts awake, they find their 
master dead ; but happily they are able to bring him to life 
again by means of a magical herb. After wandering about 
the world he returns to the town in the nick of time, and 
by producing the dragon's tongues he proves that he him- 
self is the victor, and the marshal an impostor. His own 
wedding to the king's daughter and the marshal's death 
follow ; and on the king's demise Water-Peter receives the 
kingdom. One day, going out hunting, he loses his attend- 
ants, and at night rests with his beasts beside a fire. An 
old cat sitting on a tree asks if she may warm herself at 
the fire ? When he says Yes, she gives him three of her 
hairs, and prays him to lay one on each of his beasts, else 
she will be afraid of them. As soon as he has done this, 
the animals die. Enraged, he is about to kill her, when 
she says there is a spring close by of the Water of Death, 
and another of the Water of Life : if he will take some of 
the latter and pour it over them, they will come to life 
again. This is accordingly done. Meanwhile, Water-Paul 
comes to his brother's palace, and is received by the queen 


as her husband. At night, however, he lays a naked sword 
in the bed between himself and her. When Water-Peter 
returns and finds Water-Paul in his place, he kills him from 
jealousy ; but on learning the facts he restores him with the 
Water of Life.^ 

The divergence between this story and that of Perseus is 
considerable. Not merely is the hero duplicated ; the gift 
of weapons is transformed into the acquisition of faithful 
attendant animals, and the incident of the Gorgon's Head, 
postponed to the slaughter of the dragon, becomes a night 
adventure with a supernatural cat in the forest. The differ- 
ences, in fact, are such as to preclude the notion of any 
lineal connection between them. A large proportion of 
the modern stories agree with that of Water-Peter and 
Water-Paul where it diverges most widely from the classical 
legend ; and those which do not so agree differ in one way 
or other still further. Some of them we shall have to con- 
sider hereafter. There are, however, two other stories of 
the same type mentioned by Grimm, both apparently from 
Hesse. In the one, a king, having resolved that his 
daughter shall not marry, builds a house for her in the 
forest in the greatest solitude, where she has to dwell 
without ever seeing a stranger. But near the house rose 
a wonderful spring, whereof the maiden drank and bore two 
boys exactly alike, who received the names of John Water- 
spring and Casper Waterspring. John fights the dragon, 
and is brought to life again by the sap of an oak which the 
ants have been fetching for their dead, trampled down 
during the conflict. In other respects the tale contains 
nothing new. The second story omits the supernatural birth 
of the twins. It begins with a golden box, wherein two 
^ Grimm, i. Tales ^ 419. 


fair boys are enclosed, falling from heaven into a fisher- 
man's net. The dragon is killed by a poisoned seed thrown 
by the hero into its throat. The princess' intended bride- 
groom tries to poison her deliverer ; but his faithful beasts 
discover the treachery. He is afterwards turned into stone 
by a witch ; but his brother forces the witch to tell him by 
what means to bring him back to life. A wicked snake, 
the cause of the whole enchantment, is lying under a stone : 
it must be hewn in pieces, roasted at the fire, and the 
petrified brother smeared with its fat.^ 

There are resemblances here in some of the details to 
the story of Perseus. The petrifying witch in the latter of 
the two tales reminds us more nearly of Medusa than does 
the mysterious cat; while in the former the Supernatural 
Birth approaches the Argive tradition, though no motive 
is assigned for the king's resolution not to permit his 
daughter's marriage. The fatal prophecy, which is the 
centre of the whole plot in the classical tale, is, in fact, 
commonly omitted in modern folktales of this type. We 
do not find it in either of the German stories ; and even in 
the Tuscan its force is greatly weakened. It is absent also 
from the Swedish mdrchen of Silverwhite and Littleivarder. 
In that story a widower-king, going to the wars, places his 
only daughter alone with a single waiting-woman in a tower 
to guard her honour. An old woman, suborned by youths 
who are angry at being denied access to the princess, gives 
her two enchanted apples. The princess and her maid, 
eating them, bear a son each. After seven years, when the 
king is expected to return, they let the boys down from the 
tower, that they may seek their fortunes. They meet a 
man who gives them each a sword and three dogs. At a 
1 Grimm, i. Tales^ 420. 


cross way they part. Silverwhite throws into the fountain 
that rises there his knife, given him by his mother, the 
princess, and charges his foster-brother, if the water become 
red and thick, to avenge him, for then he will be dead. 
Then, going on his way, by the help of his dogs he saves 
a king's three daughters on successive days from three sea- 
trolls. Having killed the trolls, he cuts out their eyeballs, 
and goes away. A courtier claims to be the victor, and is 
to be married to the youngest of the three maidens ; but on 
the wedding-day Silverwhite appears, produces the trolls' 
eyeballs, and the king's daughters recognise the rings they 
have bound in his hair previous to the fights. He takes 
the place of the bridegroom, who is punished. One night 
the brother of the trolls calls to Silverwhite, and challenges 
him to combat, that he may avenge them. The troll has 
three dogs, but they are driven away by the hero's dogs ; 
and the troll takes to flight also. Climbing a tree, he 
desires to parley, but the dogs bark furiously. In order to 
quiet them, he gives three hairs from his head to Silver- 
white, with a request to lay them on the dogs. They lie 
silent and motionless; and the troll, descending from the 
tree, renews the contest and kills their master. Little- 
warder, however, conquers the troll, and extorts from him 
two bottles. The water in one of these bottles restores the 
dead to life, that in the other holds fast whoever comes to 
a place where it has been spread. With the latter he binds 
the troll immovably ; with the former he brings his foster- 
brother back to life. The incident of Water-Peter's jealousy 
follows. Silverwhite's wife has a sister conveniently ready 
and willing to marry Littlewarder ; and so all ends happily.^ 
Only one other variant need be mentioned here. A story 
1 Cavallius, 78. 


obtained in Little Russia relates that a maiden coming home 
from the field was seized with thirst. She saw in the road 
two footprints filled with water, and, drinking, felt herself 
immediately pregnant ; for they were divine footprints. She 
bears two sons, who grow with wonderful rapidity, and at 
the age of seven go out into the world. In a forest they 
meet, one after another, several troops of animals — hares, 
foxes, wolves, bears, lions — who dissuade the precocious 
twins from shooting them, by bestowing on each of them 
one of themselves. The brothers part. The elder rescues 
a princess from a dragon, and suffers death at the hands of 
a Gipsy who has watched the combat ; but he is brought to 
life again by his beasts with the Water of Life and Healing, 
and weds the princess. He observes that a fire burns all 
night long in a certain house. On inquiry he is told that 
an old snake dwells there. Accordingly he rides thither 
with his beasts, and fastens his horse in the courtyard to a 
stake furnished with golden and silver rings. He enters, 
and meets an old woman in an iron mortar, propelled with 
an iron pestle — the inconvenient but usual vehicle of the 
Baba Yaga (witch, or ogress) in Russian folktales. She 
pretends to be afraid of his animals, and bids him flourish 
over them two rods which lie upon the oven. As he does 
it they are changed to stone, together with himself and his 
steed. Before they parted, the two brothers had buried 
beneath a certain tree, the one red, the other white, wine ; 
when the white should become red, or the red white, it 
would be a token of the death of him whose wine had 
changed colour. The younger brother now, coming to the 
tree, finds that his elder brother is dead, and, going to seek 
him, reaches his wife, and is mistaken for her husband. 
With the object of getting some clew to his brother's death. 


he remains with her three nights, putting the sword between 
them every night. He then goes to the witch, for whom he 
is too wary. Seized by his animals, she gives him the Water 
of Life, which restores his brother. On the way home the 
elder brother strikes off his deliverer's head from jealousy ; 
but when, at his return, his wife upbraids him concerning 
the sword, he recognises his wrong, and hastens the next 
morning to set his brother's head on his shoulders again, 
and sprinkle it with the Water of Life.^ 

1 Leskien, 544, 548, citing Antoni Nowosielski, LilJ. Ukrainski. 



IN our previous chapter we have examined the classical 
legend of Perseus, and a few of the recently recorded 
popular traditions of Europe most nearly akin to it, all of 
which I have ventured to class together as the Da7iae type. 
Turn we now to another type, not less interesting and even 
more widely diffused, which may be called The King of the 
Fishes type, from the title of the Breton story I am about 
to summarise. 

A poor and childless fisherman once caught in his net a 
fish whose scales shone like gold. He was going to put it 
into his basket, when, to his surprise, the fish addressed 
him. " I am the King of the Fishes," it said ; " spare me 
and thou shalt find many." The fisherman accordingly let 
it slip back into the water, and was rewarded with a bounti- 
ful catch. His wife, however, rebuked him for letting the 
King of the Fishes go, and insisted on his trying again to 
catch it ; for she desired to eat it. Accordingly, the next 
day he caught it again; and this time he was not to be 
moved by its supplications to return it to the water. Find- 
ing its prayers vain, the fish directed its captor to give its 
head to his wife to eat, and to throw its scales into a 
corner of his garden and cover them with earth, promising 



that his wife should give birth to three beautiful boys with 
stars on their foreheads, who should be so perfectly alike 
that their mother herself should not be able to distinguish 
between them, and that from its scales should grow three 
rose-trees corresponding to the three children. The rose- 
trees were to have this property — that when either of the 
boys should be in danger of death, his tree should wither. 
The boys were born in due course, and grew up. A 
rumour then reached them that in a distant land was a 
seven-headed monster, to which every month a young 
maiden was given to devour; and the king of that land 
had promised his daughter to any one who would deliver 
the realm from so terrible a scourge. The eldest son set 
forth on the adventure, and arrived in time to rescue the 
princess herself from the fate of being eaten by the monster. 
He then married her as the reward of his valour. But 
this does not end the tale ; for from the windows of the 
castle where they dwell together, he sees another castle, 
covered with diamonds and shining like the sun. On 
inquiring of his wife what it is, she tells him that it is a 
dangerous place ; many persons have entered there, but 
none have been seen to return ; and she prays him for her 
sake to beware of going thither. This, however, only 
excites his curiosity; so one day, without saying anything 
to the princess, he starts as for the chase, accompanied by 
a large dog. Entering the castle, he meets a wrinkled 
beldam, who spins as she comes towards him. He allows 
her to pass a thread of wool through his dog's collar. 
The thread is instantly changed into an iron chain; and 
he himself is compelled to follow her. At that moment 
his next brother is walking in the garden at home; and, 
casting his eyes on his brother's rose-tree, he sees that it 


is withering. The youth understands at once that his 
elder brother is in mortal peril, and sets out to help him. 
He is received by the princess, who mistakes him for her 
husband ; and, happening to catch sight of the castle of 
diamonds, he asks what it is. The princess replies that 
she has already told him it is a place whence no one who 
has once entered it ever comes forth. Immediately he 
suspects the truth. He makes an excuse to go out, and 
is joined as he sallies forth by a dog. With this animal 
he enters the castle, only to meet the doom that has 
previously befallen his brother. The youngest brother, 
following for the same reason, and attempting the same 
adventure, is more fortunate ; for he resists the watch's 
importunities to allow her to tie up his dog, and compels 
her to show him his brothers, whom he finds turned into 
statues of stone. She restores them at his bidding to life ; 
the three then rifle her castle and return to the princess, 
who is puzzled to decide which of them is her true 
husband. 1 

The plot as developed in this story consists of four 
incidents, distinguishable as — 

1. The Supernatural Birth, 

2. The Life-token, 

3. The Dragon-slaying, and 

4. The Medusa-witch. 

Of these the only one we did not find in the classical legend 
is that of the Life-token. It has already appeared in the 
German, Swedish, and Russian stories cited in the last 
chapter. There, however, it assumed an arbitrary form : 
the brothers stuck their knives into a tree, or threw them 
into a fountain, or buried a measure of wine apiece. In 
1 Sebillot, i. Cofites Pop., 124 (Story No. 18). 


the present type the Life-token is frequently a consequence 
of the Supernatural Birth ; it is then inseparably connected 
with the hero whose well-being it indicates ; it is not de- 
pendent on his will, but is, in fact, part of himself. Born 
with the heroes, and as inseparable from them as the Life- 
token, are usually also their horses and dogs, and some- 
times their weapons. 

Li the story of The Fisherma?i^s Sons, collected in 
Lorraine by M. Cosquin, the fish puts forth no claim to 
royalty. It is caught thrice ere it is finally taken home to 
the fisher's wife. The counsel it gives to her husband is to 
place some of its bones under his bitch, some under the 
mare, and some in the garden behind his house, and to fill 
three phials with its blood. When the three boys that 
would be born should grow up, the fisher was to give one 
of these phials to each of them ; and if any mischance 
happened to either, forthwith the blood would boil. Not 
only does the woman give birth to three sons, but the mare 
also has three colts, and the bitch three puppies. From 
the bones in the garden sprang up three lances. The boys, 
when grown to manhood, set out together, each with his 
horse, dog, lance, and phial of blood. They separated at 
a crossway ; and the eldest reached a village where every 
one was in mourning because year by year a maiden was 
delivered to a seven-headed monster, and the lot had fallen 
that year on a princess. Aided by his dog, he slays the 
beast, and wrapping up its seven tongues in the lady's 
handkerchief (which she gives him for the purpose) he bids 
her goodbye, and leaves her to find her way back alone to 
her father's castle. She meets on the way three charcoal- 
burners. Hearing her story, they compel her to show them 
the corpse of the beast, whose heads they take, and make 


her swear to tell her father it was they who had killed it. 
The king, overjoyed, promises his daughter to one of them; 
but she obtains a delay of a year and a day. At the end 
of that time her true deliverer reaches Paris just as the 
marriage festivities are beginning, and sends his dog to get 
him of the best from the palace. The dog brings him two 
good dishes. The cooks complain to the king, who orders 
some of his guard to pursue the hound. The hero kills 
them all but one, whom he spares to carry back the tidings. 
Then he sends the dog to steal the best cakes from the 
king. Other guards, following the dog, share the fate of 
the first; and the king concludes to go himself. He brings 
the hero back in his carriage to the feast. Over the dessert 
the king calls upon every one to tell his own story — the 
charcoal-burners first. They of course relate that they had 
delivered the princess; and in proof they produce the 
monster's seven heads. The hero asks the king to see if 
the seven tongues are in the heads ; but the tongues are 
not to be found. The hero then brings them forth in the 
handkerchief, which the princess at once recognises, and 
declares that it was he, and not the charcoal-burners, who 
had rescued her. The three impostors are hanged without 
more ado, and the fisherman's son weds the princess. 
After supper, when he is in the chamber with his bride, he 
looks out of window and beholds a castle all on fire ; and 
she tells him, in reply to his question, that she sees it every 
night without being able to explain it. As soon as she is 
asleep, he gets up and goes out with his horse and dog to 
see what it is. The castle stands in the middle of a fair 
meadow ; and there he meets a wicked old fairy who asks 
him to jump down from his horse and help her with a 
bundle of ^rass, that she wishes to lift upon her back. 


He politely complies ; but no sooner has he touched the 
ground than she strikes him with a wand and changes into 
a tuft of grass himself, his horse and his dog. His brothers 
find the blood in their phials boiling; and the second starts 
to discover Avhat has become of the eldest. His reception 
by the princess as her husband, his inquiry as to the castle 
on fire, and his fate correspond with those of the second 
brother in the Breton tale. But the youngest, by refusing 
to come down from his horse and seizing the fairy by her 
hair, compels her, under threat of death, to restore his 
brothers to life, which she does by striking the tufts of grass 
with her wand. When she has finished, the youngest hero 
cuts her in pieces. On their return, the princess cannot 
tell which of the three brothers is her husband. The eldest 
claims her ; and the two others are provided with her two 
sisters, of whom we thus hear for the first time.^ 

In this tale we have the additional detail of the charcoal- 
burners who pretend to the princess' hand on the ground 
that they have slain the monster. This has already ap- 
peared in some of the stories recounted in the first chapter, 
and is the counterpart in modern folktales of Phineus, 
the betrothed bridegroom who lifted no finger to avert 
Andromeda's fate, but came to claim her when the fight 
was safely over. It is not usual, however, and assuredly 
it is unnecessary, for the impostor to be multiplied by 
three. In a Tirolese tale we find a cobbler making the 
same preposterous claim. Here is no mention of the 
seven heads, the brothers are two only, and their two dogs, 
horses and lances, as well as themselves, are derived from 
the King of the Fishes. Setting out together they meet 
an old woman, who bestows on each of them a bottle of 
^ i. Cosquin, 60. 


clear water, which will become foul when the other meets 
with misfortune. The day following his marriage the elder 
hero sees from the balcony a glittering castle, where dwells 
a witch. He goes thither secretly ; and the witch meets 
him, carrying her brazier, and requests him to blow, for she 
is cold. He blows and is turned into stone. The younger 
brother, on being mistaken for his elder, lays his sword 
in the bed, as in the Hessian story ; but the elder brother's 
jealousy is omitted.^ 

A Gascon variant was told to M. Blade by an ilHterate 
peasant-girl. Here the speaking fish directs its head to 
be given to the bitch, its tail to the mare ; and the fisher- 
man's wife is to eat the rest. Two puppies, two colts 
and two boys are the result. The twins set out together, 
with their horses and dogs. They part at a cross-road 
where a great stone cross is erected; and the life-token 
given by the elder to his brother is to strike the cross on 
his return with his sword : if blood flow out, it is a sign 
of misfortune. No impostor appears to claim the rescued 
maiden ; but the hero cuts out the seven tongues and 
wraps them in his own handkerchief. After his marriage 
he walks with his wife — who is no princess, only the fairest 
girl of the town — in the fields, and sees a httle house, 
which he thinks he should like to buy as a hunting-box. 
She bids him beware, for it has a bad reputation. This 
whets his curiosity, and he goes to make inquiries. 
Having knocked at the door, he is answered from within 
and told that he cannot break the door in, as he threatens 
to do, but the way to enter is to pull out a hair from his 
head and pass it through the hole for the cat. The earth 
swallows him as soon as he complies. The younger 
1 Schneller, i86. 


brother is wiser. He passes a horse-hair through the hole, 
and his horse is swallowed up. Then the door opens; 
and he enters with his dog, slays the wicked persons 
within, makes his way to the cellar, and delivers thence 
his brother and his brother's horse. So much alike are 
the brothers that the lady, who has already mistaken the 
younger for her husband, cannot decide between the two 
when they both present themselves together, until the elder 
brother pulls out of his pocket the beast's seven tongues, 
which he seems meanwhile to have carried about in his 
handkerchief as an agreeable souvenir. ^ 

The foregoing story doubtless once contained the episode 
of the impostor. So many are the variants wherein the 
episode is found, and usually associated with the seven 
tongues, that it is hardly likely the Gascon tale could have 
originally preserved the tongues merely for the purpose for 
which they are now kept. Occasionally indeed the im- 
postor is detected without their aid. In the Swedish tale 
of The Wojiderful Pike, told in East Gothland, the im- 
postor is the princess' coachman ; and she recognises her 
true dehverer by the ring she has fastened in his locks.^ A 
curious Norwegian tale goes further. In it the impostor is 
detected in spite of his thoughtfulness in collecting the 
tongues. A poor woman, already rich in children, bears a son 
who, immediately after his birth, insists on going out to seek 
his fortune. He has hardly left the house when another son 
is born, who, quite as hastily, starts in search of his brother 
and overtakes him. They choose names — the younger, 
Lillekort (Littleshort), the elder, King Lavring— and then 
part. King Lavring telling his brother if ever he fall into 

1 Blade, Agenais, 9 (Story No. 2) ; i. Contes Pop. Gasc.,2'j']. 

2 Cavallius, 348. 


extreme peril (but only then) to call him by name, and he 
will come and help him. This is the equivalent of the 
Life-token. Lillekort meets a one-eyed, humpbacked old 
woman ; he steals her eye, and only restores it in exchange 
for a magical sword. Erelong the adventure is twice re- 
peated ; and he gets a magical ship and the secret art of 
brewing a hundred lasts of malt at once. Thus armed, he 
takes service as a scullion in the palace ; and on successive 
Thursday evenings he fights a five-, a ten-, and a fifteen- 
headed troll, to whom the princess has been promised, 
and slays them all. Lillekort and the trolls defy one 
another in a style leaving nothing to be desired. " Fire ! " 
screamed the fifteen-headed troll. "Fire likewise!" shouted 
Lillekort. " Canst thou fight ? " cried the troll. " If I can- 
not, I can learn," retorted the undaunted hero. " I '11 learn 
thee ! " cried the troll, and struck out with his iron bar so 
that the earth flew fifteen ells high in the air. " Fuh ! " ex- 
claimed Lillekort, " that was good ! But now thou shalt see 
a stroke from me !" And therewithal he grasped his sword 
and dealt such a blow at the troll that all fifteen heads 
danced over the sand. After each combat Lillekort laid 
his head on the princess' lap and slept, and she drew over 
him on the first occasion a gold, on the second a silver, 
and on the third a brazen dress. Meanwhile the Knight 
Rod (or The Red, a title for the impostor which reappears 
in the Danish variant), who had previously undertaken her 
defence, came upon the scene when all was safely over, 
and compelled her to promise to say it was he who had 
rescued her. Moreover, in proof of his victory he took the 
tongues and lungs of the trolls in his handkerchief, but 
left the monsters' ships untouched. Lillekort, on the other 
hand, on awaking proceeded to sack the ships ; and by the 


gold, silver, and other precious articles they contained, he 
ultimately made good his claim to be the true deliverer 
against the trophies brought by the Knight Rod. He after- 
wards goes in search of the king's other daughter, held 
captive by a troll beneath the bottom of the sea. By 
means of his gift of brewing he brews beer of such 
enormous strength that even the trolls on tasting it fall 
down dead like so many flies. Both princesses then insist 
on marrying him. In this awkward dilemma — this extreme 
peril — he bethinks himself of his brother, King Lavring, 
whom he summons to his aid ; and the ladies are suited 
with a husband apiece. ^ 

The encounters with the one-eyed hags here fuse together 
into one thrice-repeated episode the divine gifts bestowed 
upon Perseus and the adventure with the Grai^ ; but the 
brewing for the troll bears no resemblance to the slaughter 
of the Gorgon. In some variants the Medusa-witch is a 
relative of the monster, bent upon revenging his death. 
In the Swedish tale already referred to, she is the dragon's 
sister. In the Danish tale a cock, by his repeated crowing, 
keeps the hero and his bride awake for the first three 
nights. The bridegroom, convinced that it is no common 
fowl, pursues it through the forest to the sea-shore, where 
he had fought the sea-monster. There the cock vanishes, 
and an old woman appears. She beguiles the hero into 
accompanying her over a magical bridge across the sea to 
her den, and laying hairs from her head upon his horse, 
hound, sparrow-hawk and sword, thus rendering them 
harmless. Then she reveals herself as the sea-monster's 
mother, and revenges her loss by striking his conqueror 
dead with her wand. The younger brother, repeating the 

1 i. Asbjornsen, 159 (Story No. 24) ; Thorpe, Ynletide Stories, 300. 


adventure, burns the hairs, and forces the witch to restore 
the hero with the Water of Life. The murder of the 
younger by the elder brother from jealousy, and his 
resuscitation with the Water of Life, follow, as in many of 
the other variants.^ 

The Greek story of The Little Red Mullet- Sorcerer con- 
tains some curious variations. There the desire to eat 
the fish does not arise in the bosom of the fisherman's 
wife; but it is suggested to her by lady-friends, who 
amiably envy her husband's good-fortune, and refuse to 
believe that he is not a wizard. The fish requests to be 
divided between the fisherman's wife, his mare and his 
bitch, and that its tail be planted in the garden. From 
the tail two cypresses grow up, which are the life-tokens of 
the two boys thereafter born to the fisherman. The king's 
only daughter was possessed of an evil spirit. She had an 
awkward habit of ascending a balcony every evening and 
invoking the stars with insane gestures. Everybody whom 
she saw looking at this queer spectacle she struck with 
madness. The elder of the brothers, however, overcame 
her by stealing unawares upon her and seizing her by the 
hair of her head. In this way he terrified her into swear- 
ing never to do it again. When the king found his 
daughter in her right mind, he desired to know to whom 
he was indebted for her recovery ; but his benefactor had 
fled to the inn where he was staying. Wherefore, in order 
to find him out, the king issued a proclamation command- 
ing all the men in the town to pass beneath the palace 
windows, at one of which the princess was posted with 
an apple in her hand, ready to drop it on her deliverer. 
The latter, however, was burdened with the modesty which 
^ i, Grundtvig, 277. 


often affects the heroes of folktales, and tried to evade 
the proclamation, but in vain. Even when he was caught 
and brought before the king, he refused the offer of the 
princess' hand : evidently he knew too much about her. 
He travels on, and delivers another princess from a seven- 
headed monster who haunts a fountain. The impostor is 
a charcoal-burner, discovered in the usual manner. While 
the princess, his wife, is bathing one day, the hero takes 
the opportunity of walking through some of the rooms of 
their castle which he has not before examined. At the 
end of a corridor he opens a door, and finds himself in a 
vast plain filled with statues of human form. He meets 
an old woman who hands him a stick, on taking which 
he is immediately petrified. His brother, warned of the 
witch's tricks, and going in search of him, refused the 
stick and set his dog on her. The dog tore her to pieces, 
and thus delivered his master and many others from her 
power. Among her effects the younger brother luckily 
discovered a bottle of the Water of Immortality, with 
which he restored to life not only his brother, but so many 
other persons beside that they formed an entire nation 
and chose him, out of gratitude, for their king.^ 

It would be tedious to relate all the variants of the 
tale found in Europe ; nor do the minuter differences 
between them concern us at this moment. I am anxious 
merely to lay before the reader the general outlines of 
the plot as they are found in the more striking and 
important examples. For that purpose it will be need- 
ful to mention one or two more variants falling under 
the present type, before proceeding to consider some 

^ Legrand, 161. The story is taken from La Grece Cotttinentah et 
la Moree, by J. A. Buchon (Paris, 1843). 


in which one or more of the essential incidents are 

An Argyllshire story runs as follows : — A sea-maiden 
appears at the side of a fisherman's boat one day, and gives 
him three grains for his wife, three for the dog, three for 
the mare, and three to be planted behind the house, pro- 
mising him three sons, three puppies, three colts, and three 
trees which will be his sons' life-token. In return, one of 
the sons is to be hers at three years of age. This period 
is afterwards extended first to seven, and then to fourteen 
years. The eldest son, who apparently is the promised 
one, gets a smith to forge a sword for him, and goes out 
upon his horse, with his dog by his side, to seek his fortune. 
The carcase of a sheep lay beside the road, and a great 
dog, a falcon and an otter were disputing over it. He 
divided it between these animals to their satisfaction, and 
each of them promised him in reward assistance in the time 
of need. Going onward until he reached a king's house, 
he took service as a cowherd ; and while in this situation 
he slew two giants, who owned green pastures, and fed the 
herd upon their meadows. Now there was in the loch a 
great three-headed she-beast to which some one was thrown 
every year ; and it happened that year that the lot fell on 
the king's daughter. Her suitor, " a great general of arms," 
undertook to rescue her ; but when he saw " this terror of a 
beast" stirring far off in the midst of the loch, he took fright 
and slunk away. In this emergency the hero appeared; 
the damsel put a ring on his finger ; he fought the beast 
and cut one of her heads off. She retired for the night 
beneath the waters of the loch. The deliverer sent the 
maiden home with the beast's head over her shoulder, but 
refused to accompany her. On the way she met the 


general, who threatened to kill her unless she would say 
it was he who had cut off the monster's head. The next 
day the beast returned, and a second head was struck off. 
On the third day the hero struck off the third head and 
slew the beast. But each day he ungallantly allowed the 
princess to go home alone ; the general met her as on the 
first day, and got the credit for the achievement. When it 
came to the point of marriage, however, she refused point- 
blank to marry any one but him who could take the heads 
off the withy on which the hero had strung them, without 
cutting it. Of course the cowherd alone succeeded. He 
also produced the ring, and two earrings beside, which the 
lady averred she had given to the man who took the heads 
off the beast. What became of the general is not stated : 
the cowherd married the king's daughter. His adventures 
were now fairly begun : they were far from being at an end. 
Another, "a more wonderfully terrible," beast came out of 
the loch and tore him away from his bride. By the advice 
of a smith (smiths are often men of more than ordinary 
powers and wisdom, in fairy tales) the lady spread all her 
jewellery out on the strand, on the spot where her husband 
had been captured. The bait took : in exchange for this 
finery the beast gave up the man. Encouraged, probably, 
by success, the beast, shortly after, seized the princess. 
Again it is the old smith who gives advice. The beast 
was only to be killed in one way. Her soul was in an egg, 
in the mouth of a trout, inside a hoodie, which was inside 
a white-footed hind that dwelt on an island in the midst of 
the loch. If the egg were broken, the beast would die. 
The hero invoked the help of the great dog, the falcon and 
the otter. The great dog caught the hind. A hoodie 
sprang out of her, and the falcon brought it to earth. A 


trout leaped out of the hoodie into the water, and the otter 
brought the trout to land. The egg fell out of the trout's 
mouth, and the hero put his foot on it. He made the 
beast give up his wife, and then broke the egg. After that 
the hero and his wife were walking one day, and he noticed 
a little castle beside the loch in a wood. On inquiry, his 
wife warned him that no one who went thither had ever 
returned to tell the tale. He goes to see who dwells there; 
and the crone who meets him draws "the Slachdan druidhach 
on him, on the back of his head, and at once — there he 
fell." His tree accordingly withers ; his next brother sets 
out to find his corpse, and shares his fate. The third 
brother is beforehand with the hag, and after a terrible 
tussle slays her with the " Slachdan druidhach." Then 
with the same weapon he strikes his brothers' corpses, 
and they rise to their feet. The three take the spoil and 
come back rejoicing.^ 

This long and not very coherent story gains a little 
in unity in a variant by the identification of the second 
and " more wonderfully terrible beast " with the sea-maiden 
to whom the hero had been promised ere his birth. 
Omitting this episode and that of the giants, we have 
the ordinary plot of the King of the Fishes with little 
change, beyond the substitution of the sea-maiden for 
the wizard-fish. The alteration does not affect the sub- 
stance of the tale, for it matters little whether the food 
which results in the birth of the twin heroes be the flesh 
of the King of the Fishes, or some other gift of super- 
natural power. 

The opening of the North German tale of The Two 
Similar Brothers approaches that of The Sea-Maiden, while 
1 i. Campbell, 71. 


it also recalls one of the great stories of The Arabian Nights. 
A fisherman, casting his net into a pool, brings up, instead 
of fish, a little urn covered with a lid. On his opening the 
urn, a thick red cloud curls up from within ; and before he 
is aware of it a big burly fellow appears in the midst of 
the cloud and begs to be put back into the vase. " How 
can I put you back," asks the fisherman, " when you are so 
big and the vase so little?" But the apparition prevails 
on him to try, promising in reward not merely a good 
catch of fishes, but also a casket which he must divide into 
six parts, whereof one is to be given to his wife, one to his 
horse, one to his dog, and the remaining three are to be 
buried under the eaves of his dwelling ; but he is to beware 
of looking into the casket before he gets home. There- 
upon the fisherman lays hands upon the apparition, finds 
him as collapsible as a modern travelling-bag, and soon 
succeeds in fastening down this fairy Jack-in-the-box once 
more. Flinging the vase again into the water, he cast his 
net, and was rewarded as the apparition had promised. 
Before a year had passed, the fisherman's wife had borne 
twin boys so much ahke as to be indistinguishable. Two 
foals and two puppies were also added to the household ; 
and under the eaves up-sprouted two swords, two pistols 
and two guns. The twins set out together. They obtained 
the usual helpful animals — in this case, two young bears, 
wolves and lions. Parting at a crossway, one of them sticks 
his knife into a tree ; and it is agreed that they will meet 
there again in a year's time. Whichever of them comes 
first is to examine the blade of the knife : if it be rusted, 
that will be a token that his brother is dead. The dragon 
in this tale has no fewer than fourteen heads, and is beside 
reinforced by fourteen giants, to whom he belongs. The 


hero, of course, kills them all ; and the rest of the story 
follows the ordinary course. ^ 

In the Pe?ifamero7i the magical food is a sea-dragon's 
heart, which must be cooked by a pure maiden. A king 
who wants offspring is advised by a beggar to get this 
powerful medicine. When it is brought to him he gives 
it to a pretty maid of honour to cook. No sooner has 
she put it on the fire than it begins to emit a pitch-black 
smoke so powerful in its effects that not merely the con- 
dition of the queen who tastes the heart, but that of the 
maiden who cooks it, as well as of every article of furniture 
in the room where it is cooked, becomes interesting. The 
old four-post bedstead gives birth to a cradle, the chest 
to a little chest, the settle to a little settle, the table to a 
Httle table : nay, the very night-commode brings forth a 
tiny night-commode so charming and pretty that one could 
have kissed it ! At the end of four days the queen and her 
maiden bear each a son, who grow up fast friends. The 
queen's jealousy, however, causes Canneloro, the maid's 
son, to leave his friend. Before departing, in a final 
interview with Fonzo, the queen's son, he flings his dagger 
on the ground, and a spring starts forth, which he declares 
will run clear so long as his life is clear and serene. Not 
satisfied with this, he sticks his sword in the earth, and 
there sprouts a bilberry bush from the soil as a further 
token. But whereas the magical elements in the opening 
scenes are thus grotesquely exaggerated, the central portion 
of the story is tamed down to a commonplace tournament, 
at which Canneloro wins a king's daughter. This treat- 
ment has for its purpose to throw into relief the episode 
of the Medusa-witch. As the Enchanted Hind, the witch 
1 Kuhn und Schwartz, 337 {Mdrckeit, No. 10). 


gives her name to the story. Pursuing this animal, Can- 
neloro is met by a snowstorm, and takes refuge in a cave, 
where he kindles a fire. The hind he has been following 
appears at the door of the cave, and asks leave to come in 
and warm herself. To calm her fears the hero binds his 
dogs, his horse and his sword. The hind then changes 
into an ogre, who throws Canneloro into a pit, whence he 
is of course rescued by Fonzo.^ 

That Basile took some liberties with the story might thus 
be suspected from internal evidence. How slight those 
liberties really were has been proved by the discovery of 
an almost exact parallel as a folktale in the Basilicata. 
Even the hero's name is preserved as Cannelora. His life- 
tokens are a jet of water and a myrtle. He is directed at a 
crossway by two gardeners whose quarrel he has reconciled; 
and he rescues a fairy under guise of a serpent from some 
boys who are persecuting it and have already cut off its 
tail. The Medusa-witch is a golden-horned snake. The 
storm is a tempest of thunder and lightning, from which he 
takes refuge in a cavern. The snake becomes a giant and 
imprisons the hero, exactly as in Basile's version. Delivered 
by Emilio, as the queen's son is here called, together with 
the giant's other prisoners, he weds the fairy, who provides 
wives also for Emilio and the rest.^ 

In a Pisan tale of the same collection we are brought 
back to the talking fish of the typical story. The life-token 
is a bone tied to a beam in the kitchen : it sweats blood 
when anything untoward happens to either of the fisher- 
man's three sons. The dragon is a fairy in the shape of a 
cloud that carries away a girl every year. The lot having 

^ i. Basile, 113; i. Pentatncrone, 122. 
2 Comparetli, 199 (Story No. 46). 


fallen on the king's daughter, the cloud sucks her blood 
through her finger, and, when she faints, carries her away. 
The hero, having previously obtained from three grateful 
animals, a lion, an eagle and an ant, the power of trans- 
forming himself into their shapes, sets out after the cloud, 
in the form of an eagle. The fairy-cloud could only be 
slain by hitting her on the forehead with an egg, which was 
in the body of a seven-headed tigress. The hero accom- 
plishes this, and weds the princess. The Medusa-witch is 
a supernatural mist. Penetrating this, the hero is invited to 
play a game with some ladies. He loses, and is, with his 
horse and dog, turned into marble."^ In a Tuscan variant, 
imperfectly recollected by the teller, the fish is an eel with 
two heads and two tails ; the boys are twins ; the tails, 
planted in the garden, yield two swords ; and the heads, 
given to the bitch, produce puppies; the life-token is a 
cornel-tree planted by the hero before leaving home. The 
hero's brother, arriving in search of him, finds that he is 
imprisoned with his horse and dog in an enchanted castle, 
leaves him to his fate, and, being precisely like the unhappy 
prisoner in appearance, he takes possession of the princess 
his wife. This chivalrous conduct, however, is perhaps to 
be imputed rather to the teller's defective memory than to 
the original sin of the younger brother.^ 

When the childless fisherman, in a Lettish tale, catches a 
certain pike, the latter gets its freedom by giving two fishes 
in its stead, both of which the fisher's wife is to eat. The 
two boys thereafter born set out on their adventures to- 
gether, and part at a cross-road, leaving as their life-token a 
knife sticking in an oak. The one who goes to the right 

1 Comparetti, 126 (Story No. 32) ; Crane, 30. 

2 De Gubernatis, 41 (Story No. 18). 


spares to shoot five animals in succession, and out of grati- 
tude they follow him. With their help he wins a princess 
from demons who haunt a castle ; and by virtue of his 
victory over them he becomes king. The other brother is, 
for our purpose, the hero. Going to the left, he obtains 
similar animals, which conquer the nine-headed devil to 
whom a princess is to be given. The princess' coachman is 
the impostor ; and the Medusa-witch is the mother of the 
nine-headed devil, who lures and petrifies the hero in 
revenge. He is rescued at last by his brother.^ 

A Gipsy tale from Hungary attributes the Supernatural 
Birth to the mother's having drunk from the two breasts of 
an tirme, or fairy, who also suckled at the same time the 
dog and mare, and dropped milk into two holes in the 
earth. Each of the two boys had a golden star on his fore- 
head ; and from the earth sprang two oaks, the twins' life- 
tokens. The hero's horse and dog assist him in winning 
his bride by the performance of three tasks, the third of 
which is the lady's deliverance from the enchanted form 
of a dragon watching three golden apples. Her father then 
sends him to hunt for the wedding-feast, and he meets the 
Medusa-witch. His younger brother delivers him, with his 
animals, from the enchantment by means of the golden 
apples ; and by the same means the witch is destroyed. 
In the fit of jealousy often found in stories of this type, 
the hero subsequently kills his deliverer, who is, after 
explanations, restored to life with a magical plant.- 

In two Russian tales the Medusa-witch incident pre- 
cedes that of the Rescue of Andromeda. One of these 
calls for no special mention. But in the other — from Great 

1 Aiming, 79 (Story No. 132). 

' Von Wlislocki, VolksdichL, 316 (Story No. 54). 


Russia — the two heroes are the sons of the king's grand- 
daughter and her maid, born in consequence of their eating 
fish. The Medusa-witch is the Baba Yaga, who finds the 
youth sleeping on her meadow, and, giving him a hair, 
directs him to tie three knots in it and blow, whereupon 
he is, with his horse, turned to stone. His brother, having 
rescued him, passes on to the fight with the dragon. The 
life-token is a knife which runs with sweat. ^ 

A Sanskrit tale departs more widely from the type than 
any of the foregoing. In The Ocean of the Streams of St or )\ 
a work of the end of the eleventh or the beginning of the 
twelfth century of our era, Somadeva relates that a child- 
less king sacrificed to the goddess Durga, and did penance, 
to obtain a son. The goddess appeared to him in a dream, 
giving him two heavenly fruits, one for each of his two 
wives. But one of the wives, not satisfied with the pro- 
spect of one son, ate both fruits, and in due time gave birth 
to twins. The other wife nursed vengeance in her heart ; 
and when the two princes attained manhood, and were sent 
on a warlike expedition, she forged a despatch in the king's 
name to the chiefs in the camp, commanding them to put 
both princes to death. Their maternal grandfather, how- 
ever, was with the army in his capacity of royal minister. 
He found means to escape with them, but died of the 
hardships of the road ; and his two grandsons made their 
way to the shrine of Durga in the Vindhya Hills, where 
they underwent a course of fasting and asceticism to pro- 
pitiate her. Pleased with their austerities, she appeared 
in a dream to Indivarasena, the elder brother, and pre- 
sented him with a magical sword. Armed with this, he 
forced an entrance into the palace of the king of the 
1 Leskien, 544, 547, citing Erlenvein. 



Rakshasas, or ogres, and found the mighty monarch sitting 
on his throne, " having a mouth terrible with tusks, with a 
lovely woman at his left hand, and a virgin of heavenly 
beauty on his right hand." Indivarasena challenged the 
ogre to fight, but found it useless to cut off his head, for 
as often as he cut it off it grew again, until he took a hint 
from the virgin, who made him a sign to cut the head in 
two after smiting it off. The treacherous virgin turned out 
to be the Rakshasa's sister. She had fallen in love at first 
sight with the valorous youth, and on his victory imme- 
diately offered herself in marriage to him. This conduct 
is not uncommon in Somadeva's amusing work, and is 
always eagerly responded to by the lucky (and polygamous) 
heroes. Indivarasena was no exception. He married her 
on the spot, and lived happily with her for some time. 
By virtue of his magical sword he obtained everything he 
wished for. In this way he got a flying chariot, and sent 
his brother in it to bear tidings of him to his parents. 
Meanwhile the other lady, who was the widow of the 
Rakshasa, attracted Indivarasena's attention. His wife 
naturally grew jealous, and in a fit of pique flung his 
magical sword into the fire. She hardly expected the 
consequence. The sword was dimmed by the fire, and 
her husband lay senseless on the ground. Warned by a 
dream at that instant, his brother returned ; and on hearing 
the miserable woman's confession he thought he ought not 
to kill her, on account of her repentance ; so he prepared 
to cut off his own head. However logical and proper this 
alternative may have been, the goddess interfered. He 
heard a voice arresting him, declaring that Durga had 
struck his brother senseless — not, of course, for flirting, 
but for not taking enough care of the divine sword — and 


directing him to propitiate her. When he complied, the 
sword lost its stain, and his brother regained consciousness. 
By a revelation as convenient as those of Mohammed, the 
hero then learned that both ladies had been his wives in 
a former existence, and therefore it was quite right for him 
to have both now. So they were all happy ever after— 
especially Indivarasena.^ 

Here we have the Supernatural Birth, the Dragon-slaying, 
and the Medusa-witch, though the two latter are somewhat 
disguised. For the Life-token a miraculous dream is sub- 
stituted. And the whole is overlaid by the practices and 
beliefs of the revived Hinduism paramount in Lidia after 
the expulsion of Buddhism. 

1 i. R'athd, 381. 



WE have now surveyed the stories of the Danae type 
and those of the King of the Fishes type. There 
remain a large number of variants wherein one or more of the 
incidents are wanting. Some of these have already been 
mentioned. Where, as in many stories of the Danae type, 
the hero is not duplicated, the Life-token is not found. A 
few stories, however, approximate to the King of the Fishes 
type, but want the Life-token. We may, perhaps, class 
these together as The Mermaid type, from a variant of 
Campbell's Argyllshire tale, told him by an aged man in 
South Uist, which lays the scene in the Isle of Skye. The 
eldest of three sons is promised to the mermaid; and 
when, at the age of eighteen, he learns this, he wisely sets 
out for a place where there is no salt water. He divides 
equitably the carcase of an old horse between a lion, a wolf 
and a falcon, who are disputing over it, and receives in 
return the power to transform hiaiself into either of their 
forms at pleasure, or (for Mr. Campbell was uncertain 
which) the promise of their help at need. By this means, 
when acting as a king's herd, he overcomes three giants 
and a giantess, and obtains three enchanted flying horses, 



three splendid dresses and a washing-basin and silver comb, 
on using which he would become the most beautiful man 
in the world. He fights the " draygan " from the sea on 
three successive days, and rescues the king's daughter. 
The latter afterwards recognises him by a scratch that she 
had made on his forehead, as he lay with his head in her 
lap the third day, waiting for the dragon. They are 
married, but their happiness is of no great length ; for the 
lady longs for dulse, and as he goes to seek it the mermaid 
catches and swallows him. But mermaids are susceptible 
to music ; so by playing on the harp the hero's wife suc- 
ceeds in inducing the creature to bring up her husband, 
who in the form of a falcon flies to shore. The mermaid 
then takes the wife instead. A soothsayer informs him 
that the mermaid's soul is an egg, inside a goose, inside a 
ram, inside a hurtful bull that dwells in a certain glen. 
With the help of the Grateful Animals he succeeds in 
recovering his wife and slaying the mermaid.^ 

Here, after the beginning, the hero's brothers drop out 
of the story. The more complex Lithuanian tale of Strong 
Haiis and Strong Peter retains both twins. An angel brings 
to a childless queen a golden fish ; and a witch brings her 
a silver fish. She eats both and bears twins, the elder with 
golden hair and a golden star on his forehead, the younger 
with the like in silver. In their nurses' absence they are 
suckled, the one by a lioness and the other by a she-bear. 
Two snakes, deputed by the witch to kill Hans, the golden 
twin, are taken by him one in each hand, though he is only 
a few weeks old, and strangled. The witch, later on, sends 
a monster to kill him ; but an angel meets him, and bids 

^ i. Campbell, 93. Compare the variant told by a woman of the 
island of Berneray, ibid. 98. 


him bathe in a certain brook and then anoint his body 
with an ointment, which he gives him. This renders Hans 
invulnerable, and enables him to overcome the monster. 
The brothers then set out together, and part at a crossway. 
Hans encounters a twelve-headed dragon, and slays him 
in the same manner as Herakles did the Hydra, dipping 
subsequently his arrows in the poisonous blood. He thus 
rescues the princess; but before allowing him to marry 
her, her father imposes other Herculean tasks upon him 
— among them, the slaughter of the Nemean lion, the 
capture of the stag of Mount Maenalus (here a horse, 
captured by wounding his foot), and the theft of the apples 
from the Garden of the Hesperides. The way to the 
apple-tree (here called the Tree of Health and Life), we 
are told, lay through Hell; and incidentally Hans over- 
threw both Cerberus and the Devil. To his astonishment, 
he found his brother Peter bound to a rock in the place of 
torture, together with his wife. He freed them both, and 
sent them back to earth. On bringing the apples to the 
king, Hans was at last permitted to wed his daughter. 
The story then turns to Peter, to explain how he and his 
wife had had the misfortune to get into Hell. It appears 
that Peter's first adventure after quitting his brother was 
that of Theseus overcoming the Minotaur. It naturally 
ended in his marrying the king's daughter and becoming 
ruler. Various neighbouring peoples, however, made war 
on him — among them, the Amazons, described as a tribe 
of women whose hands were swords. Against this foe he 
invoked the Devil, and gave his wife in return for help. 
But ere long, repenting of the bargain, he descended into 
Hell to fetch her back. He had reckoned without his 
host : the Devil was too strong for him ; and it was only 



by his brother's intervention that he and his wife were 

In a Sicihan tale, a dethroned king catches a golden 
fish, which desires to be cut into eight pieces, two to be 
given to his wife, two to his horse, two to his dog, and two 
to be buried in the garden. The two latter pieces shoot 
up into magical swords. The twins set out together and 
afterwards part. One of them wins in a tournament the 
daughter of the king who had dethroned his father. This 
recalls Basile's Neapolitan tale; but, unlike that, there is 
no stress laid on the episode of the Medusa-witch. On 
the contrary, it is presented as a mere ordinary hunt at 
which the hero is detained for three days, while his brother 
comes to the city and is mistaken for him.- In the stories 
previously given of this type the same episode is hardly, 
if at all, to be recognised. 

Another type, wanting the Dragon-slaughter, contains 
the Life-token. The best-known story of this type is 
Grimm's tale of The Gold Childreji. There the life-token 
is a golden lily which growls up with each of the twins. 
Disguised in bear-skins, the hero wins the love of a beautiful 
village-maiden. After his marriage he goes to hunt and 
chases a stag. The stag disappears ; and he finds himself 
standing before a hut inhabited by a witch, who petrifies 
him for threatening her obstreperous dog. His brother 
compels the witch to restore him to life.^ 

As told in Flanders, the talking fish directs the fisher to 
cut it into three pieces, one for himself, one for his wife, 

^ x.Zeits.f. Volksk., 22,0. This tale has a suspicious air. Whether the 
reminiscences it contains of classic stories are of purely oral transmission 
I cannot determine. - i. Gonzenbach, 269 (Story No. 39). 

3 Grimm, i. Tales, 331 (Story No. 85). 


and the third to be buried in the garden. Three boys of 
marvellous beauty are the result ; and digging, in accord- 
ance with the fish's instructions, where he had buried the 
third piece, the fisherman finds three swords, three pistols, 
and three flageolets of stone. The eldest son, going to 
seek his fortune, reaches a magnificent palace, where one 
of the king's daughters, looking out of window, falls over 
head and ears in love with him. Against her advice he 
goes to visit a palace of crystal, inside whose glittering walls 
whosoever put his foot was changed into a pillar of salt. 
Seeking in vain for the entrance, he meets an old witch, 
who opens the door by her magical wand, and invites him 
to enter. Before doing so, he puts his flageolet to his lips 
to warn his brothers; for the instrument's property was 
that wherever in the world its owner played on it his 
brothers would hear, and would know where to find him. 
Then he enters, and, like thousands before him, is changed 
into a black stone. The second brother, on hearing the 
pipe, set out to seek his brother ; and he too was changed 
into a pillar of salt. The youngest draws his sword and 
pistol upon the witch, and compels her to disenchant her 
victims. Then, on opening the door, hundreds and 
hundreds of men and women pour forth, with one voice 
thanking heaven and their courageous deliverer. The 
three brothers marry the king's daughters with banging of 
bells and clanging of cannon. ^ 

This type is found not only in Germany and Flanders, 
but also among the southern branches of the Slavonic race, 
as well as in Greece, in northern Italy, and in Brittany. 
Two more examples, however, must suffice. The Mantuan 

^ ii. Rev. Trad. Pop.^ 359, from a Flemish collection, then unpub- 
lished, by M. Pol de Mont. This story was obtained at Ypres. 


version follows that of Grimm in its opening, where the 
Father of the Fishes, as he is here called, repeatedly 
enriches the fisherman before the latter's wife insists on 
knowing the secret of his wealth, and seeing the fish. The 
boys, as in the Flemish tale, are three in number ; and the 
life-token is the fish's blood preserved in three vases. 
The first of the brothers, going to liberate a king's daughter 
who is enslaved by an ogre in an enchanted palace, is 
touched by a witch with a magical berry and turned to 
stone. The second brother meets the same fate. They 
are both delivered, together with the princess, by the 
youngest, who restores them to life by anointing them with 
the fish's blood. The maiden is the reward of the youngest 
brother's heroism.^ In the Breton story the fisher's wife is 
already pregnant, and has a fancy for eating fish. The 
large fish caught by her husband gives directions for the 
wife to eat its flesh, the mare to drink the water wherein it 
has been washed, and the dog to eat its entrails and lungs. 
The life-token is a laurel, into whose trunk a knife is to be 
stuck daily by the twin-brother (there are but two) left at 
home : if blood follow, the absent one is dead. Being 
hired as groom, the first brother is married by his master's 
daughter. He notices that the windows on one side of the 
castle are always closed ; and on asking why, his wife tells 
him that there is a yard on that side full of venomous 
reptiles. He goes that way, and is entertained by the 
Medusa-witch, who pushes him upon an enormous wheel 
covered with razors, where he is hacked to pieces. He is 
revenged by his brother upon the witch, at whose death 
a princess transformed into a vixen resumes her human 
shape, and aids her deliverer in putting the bits of his 
^ Visenlini, 104 (Story No. 19). 


brother's body together and reviving him with the Water 
of Life.i 

A Bosnian inlirchen presents us with a type wherein only 
the Supernatural Birth and the Medusa-witch are preserved. 
A pilgrim gives an apple to a childless man. His wife is 
to eat it, the peel is to be divided between the mare and 
the bitch, and the seeds are to be planted in the garden. 
The elder twin, with his horse and dog, and his lance of 
apple-wood, swims across the sea, and in doing so becomes 
gilt. He marries a king's daughter, and pursues a stag 
with golden horns, which leads him to a tower. There he 
gambles with a lady for the stag ; but, losing, he is thrown 
into her dungeon, whence he is rescued by his brother, 
who wins him back and weds the lady. The elder's 
jealousy, however, is aroused on the way home; and he 
draws his sword against the younger, but is prevented from 
doing him any harm, and at his return recognises how 
groundless his passion has been.^ In a Portuguese variant 
it does not end quite so innocently ; for when the elder 
learned that his wife had mistaken the younger for her 
husband, he put him to death from which there was no 
revival.^ The Bosnian version differs also in its opening 
from the other variants, all of which refer the supernatural 
birth to a fish, or eel. This type is found in Sicily and in 
Germany, as well as in the Balkan and Iberian peninsulas. 
It may be called, from the Portuguese variant just cited, 
The Tower of Baby lo7i type. 

A type more interesting, because more various in its 
evolution, is that which comprises only the Life-token and 

^ Luzel, Contcs Bretons, 63. 

- Leskien, 543, citing Bosanski Prijatelj. 

•^ Braga, i. Contos, 117 (Story No. 48). 


the Medusa-witch. It is usually associated with Galland's 
tale of The Two Sisters who envied their Cadette^ where it 
appears as an episode. In the Wortley Montagu Codex, 
at Oxford, it is found as a separate tale, and has been 
thence translated by Sir Richard Burton. The eldest of 
three brothers, it tells us, determines to procure a certain 
little nightingale which transmews to stone all who come 
to it. Before starting, he takes his seal-ring from his 
finger and gives it to his next brother as his life-token : it 
will squeeze his finger if a mishap occur. The bird's habit 
was to cry out to its would-be captor, and, if he replied, to 
take a pinch of dust and, scattering it upon him, turn him 
to stone. The third brother only is successful in holding 
his tongue and catching the bird. By sprinkling another 
material upon his unfortunate predecessors, they are dis- 
enchanted, and among them his elder brothers. The 
latter fling him into a well, that they may take the credit 
of the exploit ; but he escapes by means of a ring he has 
obtained from the bird, and vindicates his claim. ^ 

Another variant is found in the Tirol as a pendant to 
a story of an innocent persecuted wife. The elder brother 
exhibits a dancing bear to the king of Babylon, who is so 
delighted with it that he bestows his daughter on the 
exhibitor, and names him viceroy. The viceroy goes to 
hunt with his bear in the forest. He is overtaken by a 
tempest, and kindles a fire to warm himself. The Medusa- 
witch conquers him by the usual wiles. His brother is his 
deliverer, and happily there is no jealousy. The life-token 
is a knife stuck in a tree and becoming rusty when a mis- 
fortune befalls either of the brothers.- 

1 Burton, iv. Suppl. Nights, 244. 

2 Zingerle, Kinder- und Hausm. aus Siiddeutsch., 124. 


A tale from Normandy leads us back to the fisherman. 
He catches the King of the Fishes, who recommends that, 
after frying, its bones be buried in the garden. A trea- 
sure would be found at the spot indicated ; from its head 
three faithful dogs would spring for his three sons, and 
three rose-trees would grow from the earth — his son's life- 
tokens. The eldest son, having married a rich wife, sees 
the castle of the Medusa-witch, and falls a victim to her. 
When the youngest, by his dog's help, destroys her, the 
second and third brothers wed two of the loveliest ladies, 
who are disenchanted by her death. ^ A Milanese variant 
omits all the marriages, and gives as the life-token a hand- 
kerchief, which is besmirched with blood when its owner 
is bewitched.- 

The Scottish vidrcJien of The Red Eiui represents the 
three youths as the sons of two widows. The two sons of 
one of the widows depart successively with their mother's 
malison. The life-token is a knife which will become rusty, 
as in the Tirolese variant. The Medusa-witch is the Red 
Etin of Ireland. He puts three questions, and petrifies 
him who is unable to answer them. Moreover, he holds 
in captivity King Malcolm's daughter. The third youth 
gets his mother's blessing and half a cake by way of pro- 
visions for his journey ; the others had got whole cakes, 
though small ones, thanks to their carelessness in drawing 
water to make them. He meets an old woman, to whom 
he gives a piece of his bannock, and receives in return the 
solution of the three questions, as well as a magical wand 
enabling him to quell the dreadful beasts he encounters. 
When the questions are answered the monster's power is 

^ Cainoy, 135 (Story No. 19). 
- Imbriani, 387. 


gone. The youth hews off his three heads, dehvers King 
Malcolm's daughter, and disenchants his two friends.^ 
The relation between this tale and that of (Edipus need 
not be pointed out. 

The Tirolese tale of The Knife-grinders So?ts will 
afford us the next type. Two brothers catch a bird on 
whose head is inscribed the words : " Whosoever roasts and 
eats my head will find every day a bagful of gold." Their 
father, reading this, intends to eat the head ; but the two 
boys steal the bird when it is cooked ; and the elder eats 
the body, and the younger the head. They wander out 
together, and part at a giant oak-tree. The life-token is a 
knife stuck in the tree. Hans, the elder, by sparing the 
lives of a fox, a wolf and a bear, gets them as followers. 
With their help he slays the seven-headed dragon and 
rescues the king's daughter. She meets him in the chapel 
whence the dragon was to fetch her, and gives him a ring, 
a chain, and a silk neckerchief. Too weary with the con- 
test to accompany her back to her father, he lies down to 
rest, and is found and put to death by her father's servant, 
who cuts off the dragon's heads and compels the maiden to 
identify him as the dragon-slayer. The faithful animals, 
however, find the Herb of Life, and revive their master. 
The false servant is torn to pieces by the animals, and 
Hans is recognised by the princess as her true deliverer. 
We may note that he had cut out and preserved the 
dragon's tongues, but they are not referred to in the 
recognition scene. On retiring with his bride, he sees a 
magical roebuck, and at once pursues it, thus falling into 
the hands of the Medusa-witch. He is delivered by 
the younger brother; but the two brothers, quarrelHng 
1 Chambers, Pop. Rhymes, 89. 


for the bride, are drowned in crossing a river on the 
way back.^ 

In this type only the Supernatural Birth is wanting. 
The story is found in almost identical terms elsewhere in 
the Tirol and other German lands. In a version preserved 
by Prohle, one of the two brothers is lucky, the other 
unlucky. The unlucky one goes to an inn, whose hostess 
is a witch and strangles him and his dog. The lucky one 
delivers the princess from the seven-headed dragon, and 
then goes in search of his brother. He comes to the inn, 
and is attacked at night by tw^elve witches, of whom he 
slays eleven, but spares the twelfth. She turns out to be 
the hostess. He forces her to bring his brother to life 
again by means of some magical ointment, a portion where- 
of she also gives him in case of any other misfortune to the 
luckless brother. Both brothers then go to the town. 
The king's servant has possessed himself of the dragon's 
tongues, and is about to be married to the princess as her 
saviour. This catastrophe is happily prevented by the 
assistance of the dog and the production of the princess' 
kerchief given to the dragon-slayer after the fight. One 
day, while hunting, the lucky brother is seized with jealousy 
of the unlucky one, whom he has left at the palace with his 
wife. He suddenly goes home and finds his brother gazing 
at her. Deeming this confirmation strong as Holy Writ, he 
draws his sword and hews the unlucky brother to pieces, 
thus finding occasion for the use of the ointment thought- 
fully provided by the witch ; for he soon discovers how 
groundless his suspicions have been.^ This variant dis- 

^ Zingerle, Kinder- tmd Hatisvi. aus. Silddeutsch. , 260. Cf. Ibid.^ 
Kinder- und Hausfn., 217 (Story No. 35) ; Grimm, i. Tales^ 244, 419. 
- Prohle, Ki?ider- 2ind Volks?n., 20 (Story No. 5). 


tinguishes between the victim of the Medusa-witch and the 
dragon-slayer, disconnects the hero's jealousy from the 
Medusa-witch incident, and, like the Scandinavian tale 
cited in a previous chapter, gives the impostor the dragon's 
tongues. Moreover, it contains a mere relic of the Life- 
token ; for the brothers on parting agree to obtain tidings 
of one another through their two dogs. These dogs, with 
the heroes' horses and spears, have grown up from seed 
sown by their father in a small plot of ground. It is 
probable that both this variant and that cited in the 
preceding paragraph have been derived by degradation 
from some version, or versions, of The Ki?ig of the Fishes, 
or the Danae, type. 

The Slavs of various parts of Russia are familiar with 
the type now under consideration. In a Lettish tale the 
brothers steal and eat the bird after having sold it. They 
then flee together. Coming to a crossway, they find an old 
man who gives them each a horse, dog, whip and bottle. 
The bottle is the life-token : its contents turn red if the 
owner's brother die. The dragon is a serpent with thrice 
nine heads. The hero is enticed to the Medusa-witch's hut 
by a roebuck. 1 A soldier's two sons, in a story given by 
Afanasief, receive from an old man wonderful horses and 
swords. The life-token is not detailed in the abstract of 
the story before me. One brother weds a king's daughter. 
The other delivers another king's daughter from a dragon, 
and marries her. He follows a stag, whose tracks he loses, 
and, after shooting a pair of ducks, comes to a deserted 
castle. There he meets the Medusa-witch, in the shape of 
a fair maiden, who changes into a Honess and swallows 
him. His brother compels her to cast him up and bring 
1 Aiming, 87 (Story No. 133). 


him to life again with Living-and-HeaUng-Water. She then 
changes back into a maiden and begs forgiveness. They 
weakly pardon her. Afterwards each of them is met by a 
beggar, who, being transformed into a lion, tears him to 
pieces. These lions are the Medusa-witch's brothers.^ A 
Lithuanian tale speaks of three brothers and a sister. The 
brothers, sparing a wolf, boar, fox, lion, hare and bear, 
receive a whelp apiece. Parting from one another, each of 
them chooses a birch-tree and strikes it with his axe : the 
mark will run with milk or blood, according as he is alive 
or dead. The eldest brother takes charge of the sister, by 
whom he is betrayed to a robber. He subdues the robber 
with the assistance of his beasts, nails his sister by hands 
and feet to the wall of the robber's castle, and leaves 
her. After slaying a nine-headed dragon and rescuing the 
princess, the latter takes him into her carriage ; but on the 
way to her house he is put to death by the coachman and 
lackey. His lion catches a crow and compels it to bring 
the Water of Life to restore him. He is recognised by 
means of the ring and handkerchief the princess has given 
him, and marries her. Going hunting, he falls at night 
into the power of the Medusa-witch, whom he finds in the 
shape of an old woman at a fire. The youngest brother 
first attempts his rescue, and afterwards the second, who 
is successful.^ 

The incident of the sister's treachery, which forms part 
of the Lithuanian tale, is found in several Slav versions. 

^ Leskien, 542. 

- Leskien, 389. Stories of the Faithless Sister (sometimes it is the 
hero's mother who plays the traitor's part) are numerous in the East of 
Europe. I have studied some of them in a paper on The Forbidden 
Chamber, iii. Folklore /ourn., 214. 


In a Swedish tale from north-western Finland the sister 
plays a different part. She has been carried off by a 
dragon. The brothers are twins. Their father, a fisherman, 
had caught a pike, which had bequeathed its eyes as the 
life-tokens, to turn black when the heroes were in mortal 
peril. The elder brother goes into the world, visiting on 
the way his sister, from whom he receives a sword. He 
saves the king's only daughter from a sea-troll, and marries 
her. The Medusa- witch dwells on a floating island, which 
the youth must needs explore. Since his rescue by the 
younger brother, and the slaughter of the witch, the island 
is no longer visible.^ The fish reappears in a Sicilian tale, 
though in a different capacity. There it is caught by the 
brothers, who are fishermen. It is a voparedda, a poor 
kind of fish ; and its life is spared in consequence of its 
piteous appeals. In return, it furnishes the brothers with 
horses, clothing, armour, swords and money ; and they ride 
forth to seek adventures. The life-token is a cut in a fig- 
tree, which flows with milk or blood. The elder youth is 
the dragon-slayer. A slave is the impostor who claims the 
reward of the victory. The worm's seven tongues in the 
lady's handkerchief prove his treachery and the hero's right. 
One evening after his marriage the hero goes out to see a 
bright light upon a certain mountain, and falls a victim 
to the Medusa-witch. On his way to rescue him the 
younger is met by Saint Joseph, who advises him how to 
accomplish his task. The incident of the rescued man's 
jealous fury follows.^ 

The Kabyles are tribes of Libyan stock, inhabiting the 
mountains of Algeria. They have a tale of two brothers, 
sons of a man by different wives. One of the wives is 

1 Cavallius, 356. - i. Gonzenbach, 272 (Story No. 40). 


dead ; and the other so persecutes the dead woman's son 
that he determines to go away. Before doing so, he plants 
a fig-tree as his Kfe-token. He slays a seven-headed 
serpent which dwelt in a fountain and withheld the water. 
The king's daughter in this case is not a sacrifice to the 
snake : she is simply charged with the duty of bringing it 
food. She gives the food to the hero after the slaughter ; 
and, taking one of his sandals, she returns and reports the 
event to her father. He calls a public assembly, in order 
to try the sandal on the men. The hero dresses in rags, 
and lames his horse, his falcon and his hound. Conse- 
quently, he is at first passed by in contempt; but he cannot 
escape the trial. The ascetic instincts of the heroes of 
these tales are remarkable : they will do anything to escape 
recognition and marriage. In the present case, when the 
sandal is fitted to his foot, the king generously says to the 
dragon-slayer: "I will give you my daughter gratis : become 
king, and I will be your minister." This is an offer the 
mascuhne Cinderella cannot refuse. The Medusa-Avitch is 
an ogress, whose domain he invades with his horse, hound 
and falcon. She binds the animals with hairs, and then 
eats them and their master. The younger brother and his 
animals avenge him. He watches tw^o tarantulas fighting ; 
the one kills the other, and brings it to life again by press- 
ing the juice of a herb under its nose. The younger 
brother takes the hint, and thus revives the hero and his 
beasts. 1 

Two Italian variants omit the Life-token. As Basile 

tells the tale, there are two brothers, sons of a Neapolitan 

fisherman. The elder, playing with the king's son, wounds 

him and has to flee the country. He passes the night at a 

^ Notwithstanding they had been eaten ! Riviere, 193. 


deserted house, and by his courage frees it from three 
ghosts and acquires a treasure, which, however, he leaves 
to the lord of a neighbouring tower, and goes on his way 
with horse and hound. His next feat is to deliver a fairy 
from a band of robbers, from whom her honour was in 
danger. The Dragon-slaughter follows. He takes the 
seven tongues and goes to an inn, allowing the king's 
daughter to return alone to her father. His want of 
gallantry results, as usual, in the pretensions of an 
impostor, who possesses himself of the dragon's heads, 
and is about to be married to the princess, when the hero 
puts in his claim. The morning after the wedding he goes 
to the house of a lovely maiden, seen from his window. 
She is, of course, the Medusa-witch. He is rescued by his 
brother, and afterwards kills the latter in an access of 
jealousy. On finding out his mistake, he restores him by 
means of a herb which he has seen the dragon use, during 
the fight, to mend his own heads when struck off.^ The 
other variant is a folktale recently collected in Tuscany. 
It is much less elaborate, and reads like a half-forgotten 
narrative. Here are three brothers born at a single birth. 
Each of them owns a horse and dog which came into the 
world at the same time. The first, seeking adventures, 
meets an old woman in the mountains, and asks for a steel 
that he may light a fire, for it is cold. She replies by 
transforming his horse, his dog and himself into salt. The 
second brother is dealt with in the same manner. The 
third, instead of asking for a steel, threatens the witch with 
death unless she revive his brothers. By way of recom- 
pense, he takes his two elder brothers' animals, and goes 
further. With the aid of his dogs he saves the king's 
^ i. Basile, S7 ; i. Pentamerone, 90. 


daughter from a seven-headed Hon. He takes the tongues; 
but a charcoal-burner takes the heads, and pretends to be 
the deUverer. On the hero's vindicating his right, he 
marries the lady, and the charcoal-burner is condemned to 
the fire.^ 

From the remaining types the Medusa-witch is absent, 
and from the first of them the Life-token also. Traces of 
the witch's influence, however, are found in some of the 
stories. Such a story is that of The Enchanted Twins, of 
which we have two versions, almost exactly alike, from 
different parts of Sicily. It seems properly to belong to 
the Albanian colonists settled in the island for the last four 
or five hundred years. A king, childless and dethroned, 
catches a fine red fish, which gives him the accustomed 
directions. In this case it is to be cut, according to one 
version into four, or according to the other into eight, 
pieces, which are to be equally distributed to the fisher- 
man's wife, his bitch, his mare, and for burial in the 
garden. Two boys, two colts and two puppies are born, 
and, according to one version, two magical swords grow up 
in the garden. The twins set out together, but part. One 
of them wins, in a tournament, the daughter of the king, 
who has dethroned his father. After his marriage he goes 
hunting. While absent, his brother comes to the town, 
and is mistaken for him as in most of the foregoing types, 
but puts the customary sword between himself and his 
sister-in-law when he goes to bed. The dragon-slayer, 
returning, is about to kill his wife from jealousy, but is 
happily informed of the facts in time.^ 

An African variant, told, presumably at Blantyre, on 

1 De Gubematis, 40 (Story No. 17). 

2 vii. Pitre, 296 ; i. Gonzenbach, 269 (Story No. 39). 


Lake Nyassa, to the Rev. Duff Macdonald of the Church 
of Scotland Mission, by a native of QuiHmane, speaks of a 
fisherman who caught a large fish. The fish gave him 
millet and some of its own flesh, and spoke to him, 
directing him to cause his wife to eat the flesh alone, 
while he ate the millet. Compliance with these instructions 
was followed by the birth of two sons, who were called 
Rombao and Antonyo, with their two dogs, two spears and 
two guns. The explanation, however, of the origin of the 
dogs and weapons* has been forgotten. The boys became 
hunters, not hesitating to kill whoever opposed them and 
to take possession of his land and other property. There 
was a whale which owned a certain water, and the chief of 
that country gave his daughter to buy water from the whale. 
But Rombao slew the whale, thus saving the maiden, and 
cut out its tongue, which he providently salted and pre- 
served. The credit of the exploit is claimed by the captain 
of a band of soldiers, commissioned by the chief to ascer- 
tain why the whale had not sent the usual wind as a token 
that the girl had been eaten. The chief accordingly gives 
the captain his daughter in marriage. When, however, the 
marriage-feast is ready, and the people assembled, the lady 
is unwilling. Rombao, who has made it his business to 
be present, interferes at the critical moment with the 
inquiry why she is to wed the captain, and is told it is 
because he has killed the whale. " But where," he asks, 
"is the whale's tongue?" The head, of course, has been 
produced in evidence of the captain's brag; but the 
incident is omitted by the narrator. The tongue cannot 
be found until Rombao triumphantly produces it, and proves 
that he, not the captain, is entitled to the victor's honours. 
He marries the maiden, while the captain and his men, 


who aided and abetted his falsehood, are put to death. ^ 
This variant contains manifest traces of weathering, which 
may point to a foreign, perhaps a Portuguese, provenience. 
The atmosphere and most of the details, however, are 
purely native. The husband and wife eating apart, the 
hunting and filibustering proceedings of the twins, the 
scarcity of water, the salting of the monster's tongue 
(which, I think, never occurs in an European variant), 
and the wedding customs, are among the indications of 
the complete assimilation of the story by the native mind. 
The only details distinctly traceable to Portuguese influ- 
ence, paramount on the Quilimane coast, are the names 
Rombao and Antonyo, and the guns — neither of them 
essential to the story. 

In an Abruzzian version the fisherman has but one son, 
born after his wife has consumed broth made of the 
magical fish. The bitch, having eaten the head, brings 
forth a puppy, and the mare, having eaten the flesh, a foal. 
Swords sprout up in the garden where the bones have been 
buried. The boy, grown to manhood, fights a seven- 
headed dragon and rescues the princess who was to have 
been its prey ; and the story ends with his confutation of 
the fraudulent charcoal-burner in the ordinary way.^ 

Three Swabian variants substitute the Life-token for the 
Supernatural Birth. Two of them, almost exactly the same, 
display, so far as they go, some similarity to the Argyll- 
shire tale mentioned in a previous chapter. Three brothers 
depart on their travels together. At the first finger-post 
they separate, each of them sticking his staff into the post 
until he return, so that either, coming back to the place, 
would know whether the others had gone home. Hans, 

1 ii. MacdonakI, 341. 2 [[^ j)g jv^j^o, 321 (Story No. 65). 



the hero, takes service with a nobleman as a shepherd, and 
is cautioned never to go into the forest; for three giants 
dwell there, and they will kill him. One Sunday he goes 
into the forest and finds a castle. Entering it, he meets 
with no one until he gets to the last room of the top story, 
where is an enchanted princess. She gives him a pipe, by 
blowing into which he can make all things dance that hear 
him. He afterwards drives the sheep repeatedly into the 
forest, to feed on the excellent pasture there. At length 
the giants catch him on successive days ; but Hans blows 
in his pipe and sets them dancing, and then takes the 
opportunity to kill them. He cuts out their tongues and 
eyes, which he wraps in his handkerchief. The princess 
whom he thus frees asks him to marry her and become 
king; but he excuses himself at present on the ground 
that his time of service is not up. After a while, the 
maiden's father, being tired of waiting, issues a proclama- 
tion for her deliverer. The nobleman, to whom Hans has 
foolishly confided his victory, sends his own son to court, 
with the bodies of the giants, to claim the reward. Hans, 
however, by means of the tongues and eyes, easily convicts 
him of falsehood. But before permitting Hans to marry 
the princess, the king requires him to win at the sport of 
running at the ring. The giants' servants in the castle 
furnish him with horse and splendid clothes, and instruct 
him in the game, so that he wins. But the king, under 
pretence of sending him to a monastery to learn, shuts him 
in an enchanted castle, haunted by thirteen devils. Hans 
with his pipe dances the devils to death, and the king can 
no longer withhold the promised reward of the princess' 
hand and the kingdom. After some years, Hans makes up 
his mind to go home, whither his brothers have preceded 


him. So he puts on his old shepherd-clothing, and is 
despised by his brothers, one of whom has become a 
general, and the other a merchant. He endures all their 
indignities for some six weeks, until his consort, wearying 
of his absence, comes to look for him. He still pretends 
stupidity, and does all sorts of foolish things; but she 
recognises him through it all, and induces him to resume 
his royal garb, to the confusion of his father and brothers, 
who have been ill-using him.^ 

Here the Life-token has dwindled into a mere token of 
the brothers' having returned home, and all its magic is 
lost. The remaining variant presents no special points of 
interest, save that it too is obviously in a state of decay. 
There are three brothers who depart together. The life- 
token is a sword stuck in a fir-tree, to become spotted with 
rust if its owner die. The hero obtains helpful animals (a 
bear, a wolf and a lion) in the old familiar manner. The 
dragon is seven-headed ; the coachman is the impostor, and 
is found out by the want of the tongues. What became of 
the hero's brothers nobody knows.- 

^ Meier, Marchen, loi (vStory No. 29). See also 306. 

2 Ibid., 204 (Story, No. 58). The connection ought not to pass 
unnoticed between these Swabian tales and four Greek mdrchen 
obtained by Von Hahn on the island of Syra and elsewhere. The 
hero of one of the tales from Syra is Strong Jack, who overcomes three 
ogres, and weds the king's daughter held in captivity by one of them. 
Another ogre fights and kills him, and takes the lady to wife. The 
hero, restored by means of the Water of Life, learns that the ogre is to 
be slain only by getting possession of his External Soul, and destroying 
it. This he succeeds in doing, and thus recovers his wife. ii. Von 
Hahn, 14. More obvious is the connection of one of the other tales, 
wherein Strong Jack slays an ogre {drakos) to whom the king's 
daughter had been given to eat. Ibid.^ 259. I shall have to refer to 
this in a future chapter. 


Finally, there is a type, not very common, which includes 
only the three incidents of the Supernatural Birth, the 
Life-token, and the Dragon-slaying. The Portuguese legend 
of Saint George may be taken as the typical form. The 
saint is represented as one of the twin sons of a fisherman 
who caught the same fish three days '^successively. The 
first two days it had begged for life ; but the third day it 
directed that it should be cut into six pieces, two for the 
fisherman's wife, two for his mare, and two to be buried 
behind his garden-gate. From the last-mentioned pieces 
two lances grow. Saint George and his brother start on 
their adventures together, but soon part, the saint giving 
his brother a branch of basil-gentle, and saying : "When it 
withers, come in search of me, because I shall then be in 
danger." George rescues the princess from the dragon ; 
and her father desires to make him general and give him 
the maiden in marriage. At this critical moment his 
brother perceives the branch withering, and hurries off to 
find him. The difficulty is that George, by virtue of vows 
he has taken, cannot marry. His brother comes in time 
to accommodate his tender conscience, by taking the lady 
himself and leaving George the honours of canonisation. ^ 
In a story from Lorraine a different turn is given to the 
characters of the two younger brothers, but one which 
indicates a close relation with the Portuguese legend : 
they are the impostors who pretend to have slain the 
dragon. Here the fisherman catches the Queen of the 
Fishes repeatedly, until his wife insists on eating her 
majesty. The fish requests that some of its bones be 
placed under the bitch, some under the mare, and the rest 
under a rose-tree in the garden. Three puppies are found 
1 Coelho, 120 (Story No. 52). 


under the bitch, three foals under the mare, and three boys 
beneath the rose-tree. The Hfe-tokens are the roses on the 
tree, one of which falls when misfortune happens to either 
of the brothers. The first brother takes all three dogs; 
and, with their help, in a three days' conflict he quells the 
seven-headed beast and delivers the princess. She there- 
upon invites him to come home with her ; but he prefers 
to return to his father's house, carrying the beast's heads. 
The king issues a proclamation for him. The youngest 
brother personates him ; but the heads he brings turn out 
to be of wood, with which the real victor has deceived him. 
The king throws him into prison, and condemns him to be 
hanged the next day. His rose falls from the tree. The 
next brother goes to rescue him ; and the king condemns 
him to the like punishment. His rose falls. The real 
victor then takes the seven heads and the seven tongues 
to the castle. For his sake his brothers are spared. He 
weds the princess, and they wed two of her maids of 
honour. 1 

The mention of the seven tongues, as it were by 
accident, is a reminiscence of what I hold to be the 
ancient and typical form of the Imposture-episode. A 
similar survival occurs in another tale from Lorraine, 
wherein the dragon and the Medusa-witch are confounded 
together. In this tale there are likewise three brothers, 
sons of a fisherman who had given three drops of blood of 
a certain big fish to his wife, three to his mare, and three to 
his bitch, and had preserved three in a glass as the life- 
token. The eldest brother, seeking adventures, enters the 
castle of a seven-headed witch, and is forthwith changed 
into a toad. The blood at home boils in the glass ; and 
■^ ii. Cosquin, 56 (Story No. 37). 


the second brother sets out, only to meet with the same 
reverse. The third brother conquers the witch with the 
assistance of a charcoal-burner, and cuts out her tongues. 
Now, he who slew the witch, and brought her tongues in 
proof, would have the castle and marry the king's daughter. 
The charcoal-burner bethinks himself of his folly in not 
taking the tongues. To secure them, he kills the youth ; 
and, exhibiting them to the king, he succeeds in obtaining 
the princess. 1 Charcoal-burners are the favourite villains 
of the Perseus marche?t ; but it is rarely they are successful. 
Nor, indeed, is it often that the folktale descends to a style 
of art worthy of Miss Braddon. 

1 i. Cosquin, 64 (variant of Story No. 5). 



WE have found the story of Perseus to consist of 
three leading trains of incident, namely, the Super- 
natural Birth, the Quest of the Gorgon's Head, and the 
Rescue of Andromeda. In a large number of modern 
variants, however, the hero is duplicated, or even tripled. 
This introduces a fresh element, that of the Life-token. And 
in nearly all the modern European variants the Quest of the 
Gorgon's Head undergoes a modification, and suffers a 
displacement to the end of the narrative. Other incidents 
are of course frequently mixed up with these, or even 
substituted for one or other of them. But, speaking 
broadly, the tale may be taken to consist essentially of the 
four elements I have named, which I now propose to 
examine separately. 

The first in order is the Supernatural Birth. Stories of 
supernatural birth may be said to have a currency as wide 
as the world. Heroes of extraordinary achievement or 
extraordinary qualities were necessarily of extraordinary 
birth. The wonder or the veneration they inspired seemed 
to demand that their entrance upon life, and their departure 
from it, should correspond with the impression left by their 


total career. Tales of supernatural birth are accordingly 
so numerous that it is hopeless to give an adequate account 
of them here. The utmost that can be done is to lay before 
the reader a few of the most interesting and important 
examples analogous to those we have been considering in 
previous chapters. 

If we examine stories of the Danae type, or The King 
of the Fishes type, we find that when, as usually in the 
former case, a maiden is the hero's mother, only one child 
is born of her. It is sufficiently remarkable for a virgin to 
bring forth one child. But when, as in the greater number 
of variants of the latter type, a married woman is the 
mother, the prodigy must be placed beyond doubt by a 
double or threefold birth, and often by its repetition upon 
other animals who partake of the impregnating influence. 
This influence is generally conveyed in food. The peoples 
among whom the stories originated were either savages, or 
in a stage of civihsation but little advanced beyond that of 
savagery. They credited every marvel because they knew 
little of the properties of nature. Of the organisation of 
their own bodies they entertained the most rudimentary 
notions. Whether from an analogy between the normal 
act of impregnation and that of eating and drinking, or 
because they had learned that at least one mode of 
operating effectively on the organism, for purposes alike of 
injury and healing, was by drugs taken through the mouth, 
this was the favourite method of supernatural impregnation. 
In the stories we have already considered, fish or fruit has 
been the kind of food oftenest employed. Similar incidents 
are very numerous outside the Perseus group. 

Among Slavonic nations, the agency of a fish, even in the 
special form in which it appears in the story of The King 


of the Fishes, is not uncommon as an opening to other tales. 
Several are cited by Leskien and Brugman in the notes to 
their Litauische Mdrcheii ; and of them we may mention 
one or two. A Serbo-Croatian tale exhibits an eel cut into 
four pieces, of which the woman, the mare and the bitch 
eat one each and bear twins ; the remaining piece, being 
buried, grows up into two golden swords. In a tale from 
the seaboard of Croatia a fisherman cuts a fish into three, 
giving a part each to his wife, the mare and the bitch, and 
hanging the scales in the chimney. The latter are forgotten 
in the sequel ; but twins are born to the woman and the 
animals. A king in a Czech tale causes two fish with golden 
and silver fins to be caught. He eats one and his consort 
the other, with the result that she bears two boys, one 
with a golden, the other with a silver, star on his forehead. 
One of Afanasief's Russian tales relates how a beggar 
advised a king to assemble boys and girls of seven years 
old, and let the maidens spin and the boys in one night 
knit together a net with which a carp having golden fins 
is to be caught for the queen to eat. The dog, however, 
gets the intestines, and the three mares the water where- 
in the fish has been washed ; while the cookmaid gnaws 
the bones. Queen, cook and dog bear each a son named 
Ivan, of whom the dog's son is the strongest; and he 
makes a successful raid underground on the realm of 
the monsters. The mares bear a foal each. A child- 
less king, in another of Afanasief's tales, builds a bridge 
over a pathless swamp ; and when it is finished he sends 
a servant to hide and listen to the remarks of the way- 
farers. Two beggars approach. The one praises the 
king; the other says: ''One ought to wish him posterity." 
And he goes on to prescribe a silken draw-net knit by night 


before cock-crow. This, if let down into the sea, would catch 
a golden fish ; and the queen, eating thereof, would bear a 
son. A Polish tale represents a Gipsy woman as coun- 
selling a noble, but barren, lady to catch a fish full of roe in 
the sea, and to eat the roe at sunset at fuU-moontide. Her 
chambermaid, however, tastes it also, and, like her mistress, 
bears a son.^ In Bohemia the tale is related of a childless 
monarch, who issues a proclamation offering a reward to 
any one who will find means whereby he may obtain an 
heir. An old woman presents herself and offers her help, 
on condition of being maintained until her death in honour 
in the royal palace. Her terms being accepted, she hastens 
to the brook which flows through the royal gardens and 
draws forth a gold-fish and a silver-fish. When these 
are cooked the queen eats the gold-fish and the beldam 
the silver-fish. The former bears a son on whose fore- 
head beams a golden star, and the latter a son similarly 
adorned with a star of silver.^ 

The population of Eastern Pomerania is probably in 
the main Slavonic. There the people tell of a queen to 
whom a beggar-woman brought two fishes to be eaten by 
herself; nobody else was to taste them. The cat, however, 
stole one ; and she and the queen bore a son apiece.^ Out- 
side the Slavonic populations, the incident in this form does 
not seem a favourite in Europe. But we find in Iceland a 
story of an earl's wife, to whom three women in blue 
mantles appear in a dream, and command her to go to a 
stream at hand, and, laying herself down, to drink of it 
and try to get into her mouth a certain trout she will see 

1 Leskien, 546; De Gubernatis, ii. Zool. Myth., 29. Kohler in 
his notes to Gonzenbach (ii. 229) refers to several other stories. 

2 Milenowsky, i. ^ Knoop, 204. 



there, when she will at once conceive. These women are 
doubtless Norns, for they appear again at the birth and 
pronounce the fate of the daughter who is born to the lady 
in consequence.^ 

Among the Eskimo it is also a woman who provides the 
fish. She meets the husband, and from her bag produces 
two small dried fishes, a male and a female. His wife is to 
eat the former if a son be desired, the latter if a daughter. 
As he does not want a daughter, he himself eats the female 
fish, with the wholly unexpected result that he himself 
gives birth to the daughter.- 

Two curious tales are recorded from Annam. One of 
them, thought by M. Landes, who collected it, to be of 
Chinese provenience, speaks of a childless man who deter- 
mined to eat an enormous eel known to inhabit a certain 
river-confluence. To him a bonze comes and begs him to 
spare it. When he cannot prevail, the holy man asks for 
food ere he retires. He is given the usual vegetables, 
cooked according to Buddhist ritual for this purpose with- 
out salt or seasoning, and then goes away. The other 
man catches the eel by poisoning the water ; and when it 
is cooked the food offered to the bonze is found in its 
stomach : hence it is known that the bonze was no other 
than a manifestation of the eel. After the man has eaten 
the eel, his wife becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son, 
who ultimately proves the ruin of his parents. In short, 
he is no other than the eel, who thus avenges itself on its 
murderer.^ Here we find expressly asserted the identity 
of the progeny with the mysterious fish, a subject whereto 

^ ii. Powell and Magnusson, 435. The story is given with some 
trifling differences, Maurer, 284. 

- Rink, 443. 3 Landes, Aimann'tes, 160. 


I shall have to return in a future chapter. The other 
Annamite story is a variant of the well-known group 
of The Lucky Fool. A lazy man was once lying on a 
raft when a fish leaped upon it. The man caught the 
fish, scraped off its scales ; and, being too slothful to rise 
and wash it in the water, he rinsed it in his own urine, and 
threw it on the raft to dry. It is, however, carried off" by 
a raven into the king's daughter's garden. Her maids 
bring it to her; and when it is cooked she eats it, and 
immediately becomes pregnant. In due time she gives 
birth to a son ; and the king summons all the men of his 
kingdom that he may choose a husband for her. The 
lazy man floats his raft to the front of the palace. The 
princess' son sees him from the palace-roof, and hails him 
as his father. Believing in this wise child, the king 
sends for the lazy man to his presence, and gives him the 
princess in marriage.^ Such was the reward of laziness. 

In India the ordinary mode of supernatural conception 
is by the eating of fruit. A few examples will suffice. I 
have in a previous chapter related Somadeva's tale of 
Indivarasena and his brother, who were born in conse- 
quence of their mother's eating two heavenly fruits. The 
Kaihd-sarit- Sdgara, or Ocean of the Strea^ns of Story ^ con- 
tains other narratives to the same effect. Concerning the 
birth of the famous hero Vikramaditya, it tells us that 
Siva appeared to his mother in a dream and gave her 
a fruit.2 Another childless queen, after propitiating Siva, 
receives a fruit in a dream from "a certain man with 
matted locks," no doubt a fakir. ^ In modern folklore Siva 
appears in the garb of a jogi, or fakir, to a childless king 

1 Landes, op. cit., 150. Cf. ibid.^ 174. 

2 i. Kathd, 565. 3 73^^,^ 172, 189. 


and hands him four fruits, which the queen is to eat the 
following Sunday before sunrise, and she will then bear 
four sons, who will be exceedingly clever and good.^ Else- 
where we are told of a rajah, who has seven wives, but no 
offspring. He is given by a fakir a stick, with instructions 
to knock down seven mangoes from a certain tree and, 
catching them as they fall, to take them home to his seven 
wives. Six of the wives eat the seven mangoes ; and the 
seventh wife is reduced to eating one of the mango-stones 
thrown away by the other wives. All seven give birth to 
sons ; but the son of the seventh is born in monkey-form. 
He is, of course, the hero, his brothers playing the same 
part towards him as those of Joseph, or those of Khodadad 
in the Arabian Nights.'^ A barren woman in another tale 
goes to Mahadeo, or Siva. He meets with her in his 
customary disguise as a fakir, and gives her a mango, 
whereof she and two other women, who desire the same 
boon but have been deterred from reaching the god by 
the dangers of the way, are to eat. She is blessed with a 
son, and the other women with a daughter each.^ Mangoes, 
indeed, seem the usual prescription in Indian folktales. 

Other fruits are not wanting. A fakir gives to a monarch 
who is without issue one hundred and sixty lichi fruits, 
which resemble plums — one for each of his wives."* Barley- 
corns are given by another holy man for the same pious 
purpose.'^ The Adventures of Kdnirtcp^ a literary romance 

^ Knowles, 415. 

- Stokes, 41. Cf. Steel, 290, and i. Cosquin, 149. 

2 Frere, 250. Mangoes appear also in Sastri, Drav. Nights, 54 ; 
Sastri, Folklore in South. Ltd., 140; Knowles, 130; Day, 117. In 
a variant of the last, the fakir simply tells the king that his prayers 
are heard, and his seven queens shall each bear a son. Steele, 9S. 

•^ Stokes, 91. ^ Steele, 47. 


in Hindustani, tells of a king who had no children. He is 
presented by a fakir with a fruit of sri, or prosperity. It is 
eaten by his queen ; and she and six other ladies who taste 
it add to the population on the same day.^ The youngest 
of seven brothers, in a Santali story, plants a certain 
vegetable which bears a fruit. He measures its growth 
daily, until it becomes a span long and then remains 
stationary. He warns his sisters-in-law : " Do not eat my 
fruit, for whoever does so will give birth to a child only one 
span long." The temptation is too great for one of them. 
She plucks the fruit and eats it; and though she, in 
common with the other sisters-in-law, positively denies 
the theft, she is found out in due time by the advent of a 
baby one span long — a SantaU Tom Thumb. ^ 

According to a tale of the Altaic tribes of South Siberia, 
a girl when married is found to be already pregnant. On 
being questioned, her account of the matter was that she 
had picked up a lump of ice which had fallen with a heavy 
rain, and on breaking it in pieces she had found inside, 
and eaten, two grains of wheat. When her time came she 
bore twin boys.-^ A curious legend obtained by Professor 
Haddon from an islander of Torres Straits declares that 
a woman, who had been deprived of her husband by a 
supernatural female and set adrift on the sea, was cast away 
on an island where she had no other food than some seeds 
which ornamented her ear-pendants. After consuming 
them she discovered that she was in the way to become a 
mother, and laid an egg, like a sea-eagle's, out of which 
she hatched a bird. The bird supported her, and at length 
brought her back to her husband.^ 

1 i. Cosquin, 69, citing Benfey. ^ Campbell, Santal F. T., 25. 

3 i. Radloff, 204. ^ i. Folklore, 49. 


Mohammedan stories attach, as we might expect, inordi- 
nate value to the male sex. They represent the fruit as 
eaten by the father, rather than by the mother. The Qissa 
Agar Gul is an Urdu adaptation of a Persian romance. 
It was published as lately as 1880 at Lucknow. Here the 
fruit, a couple of apples, is given by a dervish to a king 
and his vizier, neither of whom has issue. Each of them 
eats his apple, and begets — the king, a son, and the vizier, 
twins, boy and girl.^ I have already referred incidentally 
to the case of Khodadad, who was one of fifty brethren 
begotten by a childless monarch upon his fifty wives, after 
eating as many pomegranate seeds. He had incessantly 
prayed for offspring, and was commanded in a dream by a 
man "of semblance like unto a prophet" to rise at dawn, 
and, saying certain prayers, to go to his Chief Gardener, 
from w^hom he was to require a pomegranate and to take 
of it as many seeds as seemed best to him.^ Another 
sultan is represented in the same great collection as 
receiving from a Takrtiri, one of a Moslem negroid people 
credited by the Arabs with magical powers, a portion of 
certain medicinal roots, to be eaten by himself^ So in the 
Turkish History of Forty Vezirs, where a childless king 
beseeches the intercession of a convent of dervishes, and 
sends them a fat ram and an offering of rice, honey and 
oil, the sheykh of the convent returns him a bowlful " of 
that meat," ordering him to " desire a son and eat of the 
dervishes' portion.""^ Yet the rule is not without exception. 
A sovereign of Serendib, in the Bahar Danush^ receives 
from a religious recluse an apple with instructions to give 

1 Capt. R. C. Temple, in iv. F.L. Journal, 282. 

" Burton, iii. Stippl. Nights, 270. 

3 Ihid. iv. 298. 4 Gibb, 163. 


it to his consort.! ^ tale told by the Kabyles of the Lower 
Atlas speaks of a man who bought seven apples for his 
seven wives. Growing hungry, he ate half of one, or, 
according to a variant, he gave it to a man who met him. 
The result was that the wife who had only the other half 
brought forth a dwarf.^ And in a Balochi tale a fakir gives 
a king two kunar-fruits {Zizyphus Jujicbd)^ one to be eaten 
by himself and the other by his wife.^ These exceptions, 
however, are more apparent than real. The Bahar Danush 
is an Indian work, composed in the reign of Shah Jehan by 
Inayatu 'llah of Delhi, who professed to have received the 
stories of which it is composed from a Brahman. This is 
merely another way of saying that they are drawn from 
earlier Indian sources. The Kabyles are mountain tribes 
related to the Berbers. The religion of the Apostle of 
Allah sits lightly upon them. Their aboriginal precepts 
are at least as much regarded as those of the Koran ; and 
so far are their social relations from being dominated by 
Arab customs, that their women enjoy free and unrestricted 
intercourse with both sexes, and are looked upon as almost 
if not quite the equals of men. The Balochis pay little 
more respect than the Kabyles to Islam ; and their religious 
practices are largely tinged with their ancestral paganism 
and that of their neighbours. 

When a European folktale, on the other hand, exhibits 
the husband as devouring the magical fruit meant for his 
wife, it does not fail to make him repent it. For example, 
in a Portuguese tale from Algarve, a woman who confesses 
to Saint Antony, and confides to him her despair of 
children, receives from the saint three apples to be eaten 
fasting. Arrived at home, she puts the apples down and 
1 iii. Bahar Danush, 8o. - Riviere, 231, 225. ^ iv. Folklore, 2S5. 


prepares breakfast. Her husband, meanwhile, coming in, 
finds and eats them. When he learned what he had done 
he was terrified, and sent his wife back to the holy man, 
only to have his terrors confirmed. As the time arrived he 
began to scream ; nor had he any alleviation of his agony 
until a person who understood came and cut him open, 
and brought forth a daughter.^ But in cases where both 
parents partake of the fruit, the natural way of birth is the 
result. An old woman in an Abruzzian tale gives a fisher- 
man's wife an orange, to be eaten, half by herself and the 
other half by her husband. The rind is to be thrown at 
the foot of an orange-tree in the garden. A boy is born, 
and a sword grows at the foot of the orange-tree.^ A Greek 
tradition belonging to the Bluebeard cycle relates that an 
ogre divided an apple between a king and his wife, on 
condition that the eldest son was to be given to him. The 
queen thereafter bears three boys. This is from the island 
of Syra. A story from Ziza in Epirus speaks of two 
spouses who had lived with one another for forty years 
without issue, and who obtained a boy under similar con- 
ditions ; and a mare to which they give the apple-parings 
bore a foal."^ On the whole we are probably warranted in 

^ Braga, i. Contos, 42. Two instances in Europe where the magical 
food is to be eaten by the husband occur in Gipsy tales. In one from 
southern Hungary, a woman who wished for a daughter gave her 
husband at full moon the egg of a black hen to eat, with the best 
result. Von Wlislocki, Volksdicht. 314. This is in accordance with a 
practice referred to in Chapter VI., infra. In the other tale, which is 
from Transylvania, the wife goes out at midnight and collects herbs and 
bones. She cooks them at home, gives her husband to eat, and there- 
upon, becoming pregnant, she bears a son in the form of a kid. Von 
Wlislocki, Mcirchen, 119. 

- i. Finamore, pt. i., ^2>. ^ ii. Von Hahn, 33, 197. 



conjecturing that Mohammedanism has influenced all the 
stories where the husband consumes the fruit without evil 
results ; and that they are a departure from the earlier form, 
in which the wife eats it alone. A variant of the last- 
mentioned miirchen, also from Epirus, follows the usual 
rule. There a queen was presented with an apple by a 
Jew. She ate it and threw the peel away, and the mare 
devoured it. By and by the queen and the mare were 
both found pregnant.^ Beyond the ^gean Sea the Hel- 
lenic population has preserved the same version of the 
incident in a tale from Smyrna of a queen on whom a 
dervish confers three apples, with directions to eat them 
and she will have three boys.^ So, in a French tale from 
Louisiana, a lady is given an apple by an old woman. She 
eats the apple and throws the peel in the yard, where it is 
eaten by a mare. The next morning, so rapid is the effect 
of magical power, both she and the mare have brought 
forth young. ^ 

The Russians have the story in a shape recalling some of 
the variants of the Danae type. A Tsaritsa, to quench her 
thirst, draws water from a white marble well in a golden 
cup. She drinks eagerly, and with the water swallows a 
pea, thus becoming pregnant of a son who is destined to 
achieve the destruction of the Savage Serpent.^ In White 
Russia we hear of a woman who, having drawn water, is 
returning with her bucket when she sees a pea rolling 
along. Saying to herself, "This is the gift of God," she 
picks it up, eats it, and in course of time becomes the 

1 i. Von Hahn, 90 ; Garnett, i. Womett, 178. 

2 Legrand, 191, xvi. 

2 Prof. Fortier, in \i. Journ. Am. F.L., 39. 
^ Curtin, Rtissiajts, 130. 


mother of a tiny boy, " who grew not by years, but by 
hours, like millet-dough when leavened," and became a 
hero of enormous strength and wisdom, called Little 
Rolling-pea. 1 

The consumption of some kind of drug, or enchanted 
compound, is also an approved method of causing preg- 
nancy, especially (if we may judge by the proportion of 
tales wherein it appears) in India. In the Bengali tale of 
Life's Secret a fakir offers a drug to a childless queen, to 
remove her barrenness, telling her that if she swallow it 
with the juice of a pomegranate flower a son will be born, 
whose life shall be bound up in a golden necklace, in a 
wooden box, in the heart of a big boal-fish, in the tank in 
front of the palace.^ A Buddhist tale, originally from 
India, has been found, containing the incident, in Ceylon, 
and also in the Kah-gyur, a Tibetan version of an Indian 
collection no longer extant. It narrates how Indra, the 
king of the gods, taking pity on his friend, King Sakuni, 
sends him a medicine, of which his wives are to drink, 
and he will thereby obtain sons and daughters.^ Often a 
bargain is made, as in some of the European tales already 
cited, that the queen shall bear twins, one of whom is to 
be given to the holy man, or supernatural being, through 
whose gift the curse of barrenness has been taken away. 
So in another Bengali tale a religious mendicant came to 
a king who had no issue, and said : " As you are anxious 
to have a son, I can give the queen a drug, by swallowing 
which she will give birth to twin sons ; but I will give the 
medicine on this condition, that of those twins you will 

1 Wratislaw, 133 ; Ralston, Songs^ 177. 

- Day, I. 3 Ralston, Tibetan Tales, 21. 


give one to me and keep the other yourself."^ And the 
same bargain is made by a jogi in a folktale from the 
Kamaon in the Himalaya, in giving a fruit, which, divided 
between a king's seven wives, causes them to bear a son 
apiece.^ Nor is the bargain confined to India. In a tale 
told by the Swahili, or mongrel inhabitants, half Negro 
half Arab, of Zanzibar, a demon came disguised as a man 
to a sultan who lacked a son, and asked : " If I give you 
a medicine, and you get a son, what will you give me?" 
The sultan offers half his property ; but it is rejected. He 
then offers half his towns. The demon replies : " I am 
not satisfied." The sultan inquires : " What do you want, 
then ?" And he said : " If you get two children, give 
me one, and take one yourself." The sultan said : "I 
have consented." The demon accordingly brings him a 
medicine, which his wife takes and bears three sons.^ 

Sometimes the drug is given by one of the lower animals, 
most of which, it is hardly necessary to remind the reader, 
are regarded by peoples in the lower culture as of super- 
human power or knowledge. In a Kafiir story, a bird gives 
a childless wife some pellets to be taken before food, and 
she consequently bears a beautiful daughter.^ A curious 
tale was related to the Rev. Charles Swynnerton in the 
Panjab of a snake who was about to eat a young man, 
when his wife wept and asked the creature what would 
become of her when her husband was eaten ; — why was he 

1 Day, 187. Cf. a Baluchi tale in Jacobs, Indian F. T., i^jg. 

" Prato in xii. Archivio, 40, citing Minayeff, Indiiska skazkiy legendy. 

3 Steere, 381. In an Arab story from Egypt a Mogrebin gives a 
king, upon the same bargain, two bonbons, one for himself, the other 
for his wife. Three sons are born, of whom the Mogrebin claims the 
eldest. Here the Mohammedan influence prevails. Spitta Bey, i. 

4 Theal, 54. 


going to intlict this injury upon her? The serpent in 
remorse crept back to his hole and fetched two magical 
globules, saying : " Here, foolish woman, take these two 
pills and swallow them, and you will have two sons to 
whom you can devote yourself, and who will take good 
care of you!" The girl, however, replied: "But what 
about my good name ? " The snake, who knew not that 
she was already wed, became exasperated. "Women are 
such preposterous beings ! " he cried, as he fetched two 
more pills. These he gave to the disconsolate girl, telling 
her : "When any of your neighbours revile you on account 
of your sons, take one of these pills between finger and 
thumb, hold it over them, rubbing it gently so that some 
of the powder may fall on them, and immediately you will 
see them consume away to ashes." Tying the former pills 
in her cloth, the girl looked at these new pills incredulously. 
Then, with a sudden thought, she gently rubbed them over 
the snake, saying with an innocent air : " O snake, explain 
this mystery to me again ! Is this the way I am to rub 
them ? " The moment the magical powder toucheci the 
snake he was set on fire; and in another instant he was 
merely a long wavy line of grey dust lying on the ground. ^ 
In one of the Arabia?i Nights the potent drug is the flesh 
of two serpents. It is prescribed by King Solomon to a 
king of Egypt and his vizier, both of whom were without 
issue. The serpents in question were remarkable : the one 
had a head like an asp's, the other a head like an ifrit's. 
And their flesh forms an exception to the Mohammedan 
rule already noted in these cases, for it w^as to be given to 
the wives of the childless men.- 

Coming to Europe, we find a story told at Torricella 
^ Swynnerton, Indian Nighls, 137. - Burton, vii. Nighis, 320. 


Pelligna, in the Abruzzi, where a fairy, under the form of 
an old woman, tells the king that he will have no children 
until the queen shall drink a decoction made with three 
hairs from the devil's beard. A servant is accordingly 
despatched for these precious materials ; and when, after 
various adventures, he returns with them, the prescription 
proves so successful that the queen bears a daughter fair as 
the sun.i The medicine, however, is more frequently used 
in European vidrcheji to gratify spite against an unfortunate 
maiden, by putting her unwittingly into a condition inconsis- 
tent with maidenhood. In a Tuscan tale, for example, a step- 
mother hates her stepdaughter, and is taught by a beggar- 
woman how to injure her. She accordingly prepares, from 
the blood of seven wild beasts, a philtre whose property it is 
to cause pregnancy. Her father consents to her being put 
to death ; but the ruffians charged with the crime content 
themselves by simply abandoning her in the wood. She is 
delivered in due time of a dragon with seven heads of 
different animals, who becomes his mother's guardian, pro- 
cures for her an honourable marriage with a king, and 
ultimately transforms himself into a man.^ A South 
Slavonic tale from Varadzin yields a similar plot. There 
it is a queen whose daughter is beloved by her father to 
such an extent as to rouse her jealousy. She is advised by 
a tramp to go on Good Friday to a churchyard, dig up a 
bone, grate it, and give the gratings to her daughter next 

1 i. Finamore, pt. ii., 13. 

2 i. Archivio, 524. In a Breton tale a sorceress gives a cake to the 
stepmother, which causes the heroine to bring forth a cat. Luzel, 
iii. Contes Pop. 126. In a variant, the sorceress advises that a black 
cat be dished up for the maiden. Ibid., 139. In both cases the cat- 
offspring being ripped up, a prince emerges. 


morning in her coffee. The girl becomes pregnant, and 
is set adrift on a ship. She bears a son who is spotted, but 
who, after various adventures, is disenchanted of his foul 

We shall hereafter have to consider several superstitious 
beliefs and practices in connection with the dead. Here I 
simply pause to mention two other Slav stories attributing 
to portions of dead human bodies the reproductive faculty. 
The first comes to us from Bohemia, where it is said that 
a gravedigger's beautiful daughter was followed about by a 
skull that never quitted her feet. By a witch's advice her 
father burned it and made his daughter swallow the ashes. 
In consequence of so doing, she gave birth to a son who 
held mysterious converse with the Sleeping Heroes beneath 
Mount Blanik.^ The other is a Lithuanian story from 
Godleva, concerning a hermit who, in obedience to God's 
express command, burned himself alive by way of penance. 
The day after his immolation a hunter passed by the place, 
and turned aside to see the remains of the pyre, and 
ascertain the cause of the strange smell. Poking among 
the ashes he found the hermit's heart, which he took home 
to his daughter to cook for his supper. She, however, ate 
it herself and in two hours bore a son of powers, it need 
hardly be said, as remarkable as his parentage.^ It is 

^ Krauss, i. Sagen, 195. 

2 De Charencey, Le Fils de la Vierge, 20, citing Friez and Leger, La 
Boheme histoj-ique^ pittoresque et litteraire^ 341, 345. I have not 
seen this work, and do not know what value is to be attached to the 
story ; but it has the appearance of being genuine. As to Blanik and 
its Sleeping Host, see The Science of Fairy Tales, 184, 219, where I 
have collected and discussed a number of legends relating to this 
mountain, in connection with the Seven Sleepers, King Arthur, etc. 

2 Leskien, 490. 


interesting to observe that in India potency of this kind 

is attached to fakirs and rehgious mendicants. A special 

privilege would seem to belong in the popular mind to such 

religious consecration. Vows of celibacy and other ascetic 

usages have their compensation. In all ages and countries, 

indeed, the virtue of asceticism, of self-sacrifice, or of 

suffering however caused, has been recognised. The 

Egyptian vidrcheti of The Two Brothers, which was written 

down more than twelve hundred years before the Christian 

era, exhibits this as one of its central ideas. I shall have 

to refer to this legend again. It is enough to remark here 

that, just as the self-immolation of the hermit in the 

Lithuanian story seems to have conferred upon his heart 

the strange quality we are discussing, Bata, the younger of 

the Two Brothers, by his unmerited sufferings acquired an 

inherent and miraculous capacity of metamorphosis and 

reproduction. When the persea-trees, in whose form he 

found himself during his chequered career, were being cut 

down, a chip flew from one of them and entered the mouth 

of the king's favourite, once his own wife. She swallowed it 

and, conceiving, gave birth to a male child, who was no other 

than a new manifestation of her former husband, Bata.^ 

For in these tales not only the fruit but also other parts 
of a tree or shrub are endowed with the power of causing 
conception. In Denmark we are told of a wise woman, by 
whose counsel a childless queen goes down before sunrise 
into the royal garden and eats the three buds of a certain 

^ Maspero, 26 ; ii. Records of the Past, 137 ; De Charencey, Trad., 
rel, 11; Le Page Renotif in xi. Proc. Soc. Bibl. Arch., 184. The scribe, 
who wrote the MS. we have, flourished under Rameses ii. and his two 
successors. How many times the story had been written down before, 
of course we do not know. 


thorny bush. After six months the queen bears a daughter, 
who must be kept from her parents' sight until her four- 
teenth birthday, else both mother and child will suffer a dire 
misfortune.^ An Icelandic tale gives, by a beggar-woman's 
mouth, the following recipe for growing the magical plant : 
" Your majesty must make them bring in two pails of water 
some evening before you go to bed. In each of them you 
must wash yourself, and afterwards throw away the water 
under the bed. When you look under the bed next 
morning, two flowers will have sprung up, one fair and one 
ugly. The fair one you must eat ; the ugly one you must 
let stand." The temptation, however, was too great for the 
lady. Having eaten the fair one and found it delicious, 
she proceeded to eat the ugly one, and gave birth in due 
time to two daughters, a fair and a loathly one. The latter, 
though hideous, is her sister's good angel, and eventually 
wedding the king's son, becomes the most beautiful woman 
in the world."-^ It will be remembered that the fakir in one 
of the Bengali tales already cited prescribes the juice of a 
pomegranate-flower to be taken with his drug. Annamese 
folklore recounts the history of a maiden who, walking 
in a garden, plucks and eats a lovely flower. Her parents 
(who seem to have had a shrewd opinion of religious 
celibates) suspected the bonze of a neighbouring pagoda 
of having dishonoured her, and sent her to the pagoda, 
where she was delivered of no fewer than five sons of mar- 
vellous powers, and all exacdy alike. Questioned as 
to their names, the first calls himself The Strong, the 
second Steel-body-iron-liver, the third Search-cloud-drive- 
dust, the fourth The Dry, and the fifth The Damp. They 
get up a quarrel with the king, and ultimately compel him 
1 i. Grundtvig, 150. ^ Dasent, 345. 


to yield his throne to Search-cloud, who is the wisest of 
the brothers. 1 In the Penta?7ieron a nobleman's sister 
offers a prize to that one of her maids who succeeds in 
clearing a certain rosebush at a jump. All fail ; and the 
lady herself, trying it, knocks off a leaf. With great 
adroitness she picks it up and swallows it unobserved, 
and thus wins the prize. After three days, mysterious 
pains seize her ; and she learns with horror from a friendly 
fairy that no doubt she is pregnant from the roseleaf she 
has swallowed. This turns out to be the fact. A lovely 
baby-girl is born, for whom a strange destiny is in store. 
A spell is laid upon her by the fairies that if, at seven years 
of age, her mother be allowed to comb her, the comb will 
be left stuck in her hair, and she will thereupon die. The 
story follows a similar course to that of the Danish one just 
cited.2 In a Tuscan folktale a woman wedded for many 
years, but childless, obtains a son by eating "a certain 
herb " pointed out to her by a fairy, to whom she promises 
in return a fair present. But she and her husband neglect 
to fulfil the promise ; and to punish them the boy is born 
and remains of diminutive size.^ The Passamaquoddies, 
a North American tribe of tolerably pure blood in New 
England, attribute the birth of a medicine-man, a hero of 
their folklore, to his mother's biting off every bush as she 
travelled through the woods. From one of these bushes, 
the narrative does not say which of them, she comes to 
be with child. ^ 

Romances are, of course, literature, not folklore. In 

^ Landes, Aiinam.^ 245. 

2 i. Basile, 249; i. Pentamerone, 238. The Italian fairies are 
always rather /xoipat than what we understand by fairies. 

3 De Gubernatis, Trad. Pop., 187. ■* m.Jouni. Am. F.L., 273. 


other words, they are the deliberate productions of civihsa- 
tion, they are works of conscious art. Their authority, 
therefore, as evidence of tradition is greatly inferior to that 
with which the report of a folktale is invested. Folktales, 
when written down, cease to be traditions. They are 
merely evidence of tradition preserved for us by reporters. 
Their value depends on the accuracy and knowledge with 
which they have been reported. The more closely they 
represent the very words of the tellers of the tales — the 
bearers of the traditions — the more valuable, the more 
authentic, they are. Romances, on the other hand, cannot 
claim to be reports of traditions. They are subject to the 
laws of art, as developed under the influences of civilisa- 
tion. Even when starting from real traditions, their aim is 
not accuracy but amusement. Whatever changes are 
required by the development of taste or fashion, whatever 
changes will from any cause add to the pleasure of the 
reader, their authors are at liberty — nay, they are bound — 
to make. But when all this is conceded there remains the 
fact that an immense number of romances start from tradi- 
tion, and embody its characteristic barbarisms and its 
fantastic impossibilities. Of this kind is an incident in 
the Spanish Romance de don Tj'ista?i by Alonso de Salaya, 
written towards the end of the fifteenth century. It is 
related there that, Tristram being wounded in a transport 
of jealousy by King Mark, Isolte visited him ; and the 
two lovers shed abundant tears. From these tears a lily 
sprang. " Every woman who eats of it forthwith feels 
herself pregnant ; Queen Isolte ate of it to her sorrow."^ 
In the Annamite story of The Lazy Man mentioned 

^ Quoted by De Charencey, Le Fils de la Vierge, 25, from De Puy- 
maigre, ii. Les Vieux Auteiirs CastillanSy 355. 


just now, the fish had been washed in the man's urine. 
A variant, also from Annam, describes a sort of female 
Tom Thumb, born in answer to prayer, as eating the 
rind of a water-melon, the substance of which had been 
eaten by a prince. The prince, before throwing the 
rind away, had made water into it ; and the heroine 
consequently became pregnant.^ In both these cases it 
is the man's urine that confers the efficacy upon the 
food. A nasty Nubian tale ascribes the same result to 
a woman's drinking, under stress of great thirst, the urine 
of an ass.^ 

Other stories recall the German Water Peter and Water 
Paul^ discussed in a previous chapter. A maiden in a 
Tjame tale, being thirsty, sees water spring from the midst 
of some rocks in the forest and fill a rocky basin. There 
she drinks and bathes. But when, on returning to her 
father who is at work hard by, he asks her to show him the 
spring that he may drink also, it is already dried up. Her 
subsequent pregnancy is said to be the result of having 
drunk of that spring. She gives birth to a son round as a 
cocoa-nut, and covered with a cocoa-nut envelope. He 
turns out to be a great magician. A princess penetrates 
his disguise and marries him. At night when he comes 
out of his envelope, his wife buries it and persuades him 
to exhibit himself in his true and beautiful manhood.^ A 
Wallachian mdrchen brings before us a maiden condemned 
by the king, her father, to seclusion from her earliest 
infancy in a castle to which no men were allowed access. 

^ Landes, op. ciL, 174. - De Rochemonteix, 18. 

^ Landes, Tjames^ 9. The Tjames are a mongrel race descended 
from aborigines of Annam who intermarried with Malay invaders. 
See ii. V Anthropologies 186. 


His precautions were vain. At the age of sixteen a Gipsy 
woman gives her a flower she declares herself to have 
found in the forest, not far from the castle. The princess 
plays with it until the evening, and then puts it in water 
until the morning. The water becomes purple-red, like 
the lovely flower itself, with little golden and silver stars 
swimming in it, like the fragrant dust on the petals. The 
princess had never seen anything of the kind. She was so 
delighted that she dipped the whole flower into the water 
and crumpled it up. At last she lifted up the glass, and, 
finding the water had taken a delicious scent, she drank it 
to the bottom. Before long she had reason to repent. 
Her condition became manifest, and her stern father would 
listen to no denials. Beside himself with rage, he caused 
her to be fastened up in a cask and thrown into the sea. 
There she bore a son, and was, with the child, cast after a 
while on shore. The rest of the story unfortunately is 
not so much to her credit ; for she forms a tender connec- 
tion with an ogre, and plots against the son who has been her 
support and comforter in her outcast condition.^ A Gipsy 
story from southern Hungary represents a childless woman 
as given by a witch a certain liquid, with instructions to pour 
it into a gourd, and drink it in the waxing of the moon. 
Unhappily, however, the child is born dead. Now, a still- 
born child becomes a Mulo, a kind of ghoul dwelling in the 
mountains and guarding hidden treasure. This prospect was 
so terrible to the woman and her husband, that the latter 
made a journey to the mountains, and at last got the child 
back from the Mulo-folk, and he grew up a clever man.^ 

1 Schott, 262. 

- Von Wlislocki, Volksgl. Zig., 36; Volksdicht., 245. Cf. Ihid.^ 194, 
where milk is to be poured into the gourd. 


Nor is it only by the mouth that supernatural impregna- 
tion has been fabled to take place. A variant from Varadzin 
of one of the South Slavonic tales quoted a few paragraphs 
back mentions a youth who was fated to kill his parents. 
Rather than fulfil so horrible a doom he burnt himself to 
death. But his heart remained intact and palpitating. A 
maiden passed by, saw and smelt the heart, and gave birth 
to a boy, who was no other than the first come to life again. 
He had struggled against his fate in vain, and in due course, 
though unwittingly, he slew his former parents. ^ In a Sans- 
krit romance, the Princess Chand Rawati, bathing in the 
Ganges, sees a flower afloat on the water and takes it up to 
smell. It contains some spenna genitah which has escaped 
from a Rishi ; the lady inhales this, with consequences 
readily guessed, having regard to the hohness of the ascetic. 
But in this case her son appropriately finds his way into the 
world by his mother's nose. It is satisfactory to add that 
she eventually marries the lad's father, and that the lad 
himself by his filial obedience and courage obtains immor- 
tality.- Even without the adventitious aid of a saint, the 
scent or the touch of flowers has been known in traditional 
songs and fairy tales to produce the same result. A Gipsy 
story from the Land beyond the Forest speaks of a woman 
who, by smelling a certain flower, became pregnant of a 
son, born in the form of a serpent ; and in another, from 
southern Hungary, a childless queen receives from a 
beldam a camomile flower to bear in her bosom, on the 
stipulation she should give in exchange one of the sons 
whom she would bring into the world. ^ A Portuguese 

^ Dragomanov, in xii. Archivio, 275, quoting Valjavec. 

2 Capt. R. C. Temple, in iv. F.L. Jottrn., 304. 

3 Von Wlislocki, Volksdicht., 213, 336. 


romanceiro speaks of an enchanted herb, which any 
woman who touched would at once feel herself fertilised. 
A ballad current in Asturia narrates that the princess 
Alexandra was fated to tread on so apparently innocent a 
herb as borage. The king of Spain, her father, with his 
parental eyes, detected that there was something the matter. 
He summoned the doctors ; and when she had given birth 
to a boy he executed summary justice upon her by cutting 
off her head.^ In Sardinia the folk tell of a maiden who, 
while buying some roses from a woman, took them up to 
examine, when they all fell to pieces. The woman, annoyed, 
cursed her to become pregnant by the petals; and her 
imprecation was only too effective.^ Here it is the curse 
which provides the magical power. A different origin is 
attributed to it in a Bulgarian ballad. A widow, we are 
told, had nine sons who were all carried off by the plague. 
One of them was his mother's idol. She buried him in her 
courtyard, and every day she came to weep upon his grave. 
In obedience to a voice proceeding from the earth, she 
gathered two hyacinth flowers which grew upon the tomb, 
hid them in her bosom, and thus conceived afresh. A 
son was born, over whom she uttered the wish : " Mayest 
thou one day reave the kingdom from the king ! " When 
her words were reported to the monarch he ordered the 
boy to be thrown into an underground dungeon, and there 
left. After several years the king was attacked by a horrible 
malady ; grass grew between his bones and his eyes littered 
mice. He naturally beheved that this was the consequence 
of the widowed mother's curses, and sent to the dungeon 
for the boy's bones, for the purpose of forwarding them to 
her, as the only consolation in his power to give her. But 
^ De Charencey, Le Fils de la Vierge, 26, 27. 2 Mango, loi. 


the messengers found the boy alive and reading the gospel, 
which was held before him by Saint Friday, while Saint 
Sunday further contributed to his convenience by holding 
the candle. The youth, fated by his mother's words, arose 
from his pious exercises, and going to the king, tore out his 
eyes, cut off his hands, and turned him out of doors to beg 
his bread. Then he placed himself upon the throne, trifling 
the while with a sceptre that weighed, mere toy that it was, 
some three hundred pounds.^ 

I have cited fully the substance of this ballad as given by 
M. Dragomanov, because that scholar is inclined to trace 
the influence of Buddhism in the last touch. Buddha, he 
says, is considered as a man of great physical force, and in 
several places his sceptres of considerable weight are shown. 
The learned critic specifies none of the places in question ; 
but we may for the nonce admit the literal accuracy of his 
statement. He does not commit himself, however, to the 
assertion that no other hero of legend or fairy tale had ever 
been possessed of gigantic strength or material "properties " 
of unusual proportions. He merely assumes it ; and upon 
the validity of this assumption his reasoning is founded. 
Gautama no doubt underwent many incarnations ; and 
perhaps European students may yet be persuaded to hold 
that the paladin Roland was a Bodisat and Thor a full- 
blown Buddha. They will then probably extend their 
articles of belief over the rest of the world, including 
the countless personages of wondrous might and bulk that 
swarm in the traditions of the Slavonic race, to which, in 
great part at all events, the Bulgars belong. The task of 
converting them may be commended to M. Dragomanov ; 

^ Compte Rendu dtc Coitgres, 47. The personification of holy days 
is not uncommon in folktales, especially in the east of Europe. 


and, meanwhile, we may dismiss the suggestion of Buddhist 
influence on this Bulgarian ballad. 

But it is not only flowers and herbs that possess the 
magical virtue of causing conception by the touch. In an 
Eskimo tradition a man who longs for offspring is advised 
to set off in his kayak to the open sea. When he hears a 
voice like that of a fchild crying, he must go towards it ; 
and he will then find a worm, which he must bring home 
and throw on his wife's body. Having followed this 
counsel, he beholds the worm disappear in the woman's 
body ; and soon afterward she gives birth to a son, who 
becomes a seal-fisher of marvellous powers. ^ According 
to a story given by Dr. von Wlislocki as current among the 
Armenian settlers at the foot of the Carpathians, a childless 
queen picked up in her garden a half-dead bird. She 
restored it to life, putting its bill between her lips to give it 
breath. Her saliva touched its tongue and gave it human 
speech. By its directions she hid in the garden at mid- 
night and watched until a Luckwife — that is to say, a Fate 
or Norn — came to bathe in the pool. Then she caught up 
the golden veil left by the Luckwife lying on the margin, 
and ran off with it. Binding it round her body, she wore 
it next her skin for nine months, until she at length brought 
forth a lovely daughter. ^ 

Another form of assistance by birds is found among the 
Zulus. The birth of Unthlatu was on this wise. Two 
pigeons came to his mother, who was a chief's wife. One 
said: "Vukutu;" the other asked: "Why do you say 
* Vukutu,' since she has no children ? " They bargain with 

1 Rink, 437. 

2 Von Wlislocki, Bukowinaer^ 72. As to the power of saliva on a 
bird's tongue, see ibid,^ Volksdicht.^ 3S4. 



her for a feed of castor-oil berries in exchange for the 
promise of a child. When they had eaten the berries they 
scarified her in two places on the loins, saying : " You will 
now have a child." She accordingly gave birth to a 
beautiful boy, whom she hid in a boa's skin to save him 
from the envy of her fellow-wives ; for they had only given 
birth to brutes. In a variant the pigeons direct the woman 
to take a horn and cup herself, draw out a clot of blood, 
place it in a pot, lute it down and only uncover it in the 
ninth month. She acts accordingly ; and on opening the 
pot a child is found within, to the astonishment of herself 
and her husband. Here, too, she has to hide the boy from 
the envy of the other women. ^ 

A favourite mdrchen in Italy and Sicily is one which 
approaches far more nearly to the Danae type of the 
Perseus group. As told in Sicily, a king unblessed with 

^ Callaway, Tales, 66, 72. In another variant the blood is drawn 
from the woman's knees, placed in two jars, and becomes a boy and a 
girl. Theal, 139. A Blackfoot story ascribes the origin of Kutoyis, or 
Clot of Blood, a hero of great prowess, to a clot of bufifalo-blood 
brought home by a hunter and put in the kettle on the fire. Grinnell, 
Blackfoot L.T., 30; Maclean, in v\. Journ. Am. F.L., 167. The 
Rabbit in Siouan mythology makes the Young Rabbit from a clot of 
buffalo's blood. J. Owen Dorsey, in v. Journ. A771. F.L., 295. In 
an Esthonian jndrchen a childless queen receives from an old woman 
an egg to be brooded in her bosom for three months. At the end of 
that time a living female embryo is hatched, which grows to the size of 
an unborn child. When that size is reached the queen also gives birth 
to a son ; and the two are treated as twin brother and sister. Kreutz- 
wald, 341. Stories of children hatched from eggs are by no means 
infrequent : Hodgetts, 194; Day, 93; i. Folklore, 49 (already cited), for 
example. They are perhaps more usual in sacred sagas : see a Fijian 
saga, i. Mem. Anthr. Soc, 203 ; and the classical and other legends 
mentioned by Liebrecht in a note to Gei'v. Tilb., "jt,. 


issue summons a wizard, to inquire of him whether his 
queen will have a babe, or not. The wizard replies that 
she will have a daughter, who in her fourteenth year will be 
impregnated by the sun. The child is accordingly born, 
and shut up with her nurse in a tower where the sun cannot 
penetrate. One day the little maiden finds a pointed bone 
in her food ; and with its aid she scratches the wall of the 
tower until she scrapes a hole in it. Through this hole 
the sun shines on her and fulfils the prediction. A 
daughter is born in due course and exposed, but found 
by a king's son, who ultimately falls in love with her, and 
weds her after learning of what ancestry she comes. ^ The 
opening of this tale admits of many variations having 
nothing to do with the Supernatural Birth. Thus, in a 
Greek story from Epirus, a woman prays to the sun for a 
daughter, promising him that he may take her away when 
she is twelve years old. When she obtains the child, how- 
ever, she seeks to evade the fulfilment of her promise, and 
hides the girl in the house, stopping up all windows, 
chinks and holes whereby the sun can reach her. But she 
forgets to stop up the keyhole ; and the sun sends a ray 
that way into the house to seize and bring him the maiden.- 
A Florentine story represents the astrologer as predicting 
that the lass will be carried away by the wind; and all 

1 i. Gonzenbach, 177. Versions are given from Sulmona in the 
Abruzzi, iii. De Nino, i ; from Pisa, Comparetti, 195 ; from Rufina in 
Tuscany, Pitre, Toscane, 8. The circumstances of the conception 
differ very slightly in all these. Two or three years ago the same 
story was discovered in the island of Moe, belonging to Denmark. It 
is stated to follow Fraulein Gonzenbach's tale point by point ; and 
M. Feilberg is bold enough to declare that it had passed from her 
collection into the mouths of the Danish folk in that island, iii. A/n 
Urquelly 331. - i. Von Hahn, 245. 


precautions against her destiny are vain.^ In another 
SiciHan tradition the soothsayer is wisely vaguer, his de- 
nunciations only extending to a dreadful fate at the age of 
eleven. A bird comes in through the hole the maiden has 
bored in the wall of her tower, and becomes a man. He 
is, in fact, an enchanted prince ; and the misfortune she 
undergoes is the loss of her beauty in disenchanting him — 
a woe of light account in fairyland, where the virtuous are 
ever rewarded.- A tale from the Azores relates that a king 
to w^hom a daughter had been born consulted his book of 
astrology; and in obedience to the directions he there 
found he confined her at the age of twelve in a tower 
having only one aperture, by which food was conveyed to 
her, and commanded that no bones be left in the meat 
supplied. By accident his command was disobeyed; a 
duke dressed, like Mackineely in the Irish tale, in female 
attire gains an opportunity of talking with her through the 
aperture. Who could resist such a temptation ? The bone 
she had found in her food she utilises to enlarge the 
opening, so as to get out and flee with him.^ A similar 
illustration of the impossibility of cheating fate occurs in 
an old Hebrew manuscript. King Solomon, we learn from 
this veracious authority, had a beautiful daughter whose 
horoscope disclosed that she was to marry a poor Israelite 
of low birth. He therefore built a very high tower with no 
entrance, and there he imprisoned her with a stock of 
victuals. For some time his precautions appeared success- 
ful ; but after a while a poor youth, exhausted from long 
travel, took shelter for the night in the carcase of an ox. 
When he had fallen asleep a large bird obligingly carried 

^ Imbriani, 397. ^ i. Gonzenbach, 167. 

2 Braga, i. Contos, 104. Cf. iii. De Nino, 263. 


carcase and youth up to the roof of the tower. There to 
his great surprise he found himself the next morning ; and, 
Hke the prince borne by the Enchanted Horse in the 
Arabian Nights, he lost no time in making the princess' 
acquaintance. They speedily fell in love with one another ; 
but, with scruples that King Solomon perhaps would hardly 
have appreciated, he wrote a marriage contract in his own 
blood, calling upon God and the angels Michael and 
Gabriel to witness it.^ In a modern Transylvanian Gipsy 
version the foreign "common" man is carried up by a 
magical wooden bird, with which he has been gifted by 
Saint Nicholas in return for hospitality when the saint 
appeared to him in beggar's guise. Though a favourite with 
the saint, his conscience does not seem to have been quite 
so tender as that of the poor Israelite.^ These tales carry 
us back to that of Gilgamos, as it is recounted by ^lian. 

Happily I am not called upon to stand sponsor here for 
every irregular birth in a fairy tale. Cases of birth direct 
from fruit, diminutive births, impregnation in the ordinary 
way but by a supernatural being, and other, instances, there- 
fore need not detain us. But we ought not altogether to 
overlook the widespread story of The Lucky Fool. In the 
Penta77ieron Basile has given us what may be regarded as the 
typical form. Pervonto is a ninny who, going to cut wood 
in the forest, finds three youths asleep and perspiring in the 
hot sunshine. Taking pity on them, he sets up a shade of 
oak-leaves over their heads ; and on their awaking they 
endow him with the power of obtaining anything by a wish. 
When the hero has made up a bundle of wood he sets him- 
self astride of it and wishes it to carry him home. On the 

^ Kohler in The Academy, 2ist March 1891, citing Buber's edition 
oS. Midrasch Tanchumar. - Von Wlislocki, Volksdicht., 360. 


way he passes on his strange palfrey the king's palace -, and 
the princess VastoUa, beholding him from the window, 
bursts out into loud laughter. Pervonto retorts by wishing 
her to become pregnant by him. The wish takes effect. 
Her children are twin boys ; and at a banquet given by the 
king, to which all his male subjects are summoned, they 
identify their father. The king, enraged, encloses them 
with his daughter and Pervonto in a cask, and flings the 
cask into the sea. Again Pervonto's magical wish becomes 
useful ; for by its means he saves them all from peril, 
changes himself into a fair youth, and at last is recon- 
ciled to the king and recognised as VastoUa's husband. 
Whence Basile, or the lady into whose mouth he puts 
the tale, draws the very relevant moral : Man proposes, 
God disposes.! 

1 i. Basile, 47 ; i. Pentamerone^ 43. 



HITHERTO, dealing exclusively with vidrchen^ or tales 
told for simple amusement, we have found the 
incident of the Supernatural Birth, outside the cycle of the 
Perseus myth, widely scattered in Europe, in Asia as far 
east as Annam, southward among the Zulu kraals of Africa 
and northward among the snows of Greenland. Nor does 
it occur in modern folklore only. It formed one of the 
chain of events in a tale of wonder carefully guarded for us 
through the long silence of three thousand years by an 
Egyptian mummy, to whose arms it had been intrusted at 
his burial, a precious fragment of the literature he had 
known and loved in life, and therefore deemed a gift appro- 
priate to his service in his everlasting home. But the 
story of Perseus was, at all events in early ages, believed 
as an actual occurrence by the simple folk of Greece and 
wherever Greek influence extended the hero's cult. Has 
the possibility of a Supernatural Birth of this kind been 
credited elsewhere and under other conditions of culture ? 
In a land dominated by Christian thought the question 
seems superfluous. The mystery taught by the creeds of the 
Church, however, is believed to be something apart from 
all the other beliefs of the world, something altogether above 



them, alike in its evidence and its consequences. Christians 
in thus thinking overlook the fact that to the believer in 
any religion its evidences are undeniable and its claims are 
supreme. The fact is that the incident in question is part 
and parcel of many other reHgions than the Christian, and 
is also gravely accepted among what we may call the 
secular and quasi-historical traditions of tribes in various 
parts of the Old and New World. Beyond this, as we shall 
see in another chapter, pregnancy is held actually pro- 
ducible by means analogous to those described in the 
legends, means outside the ordinary operations of nature. 
Into the bearing of these facts on the dogma of the Super- 
natural Birth of Jesus Christ, or on the historical evidence 
on which that dogma rests, it is not my purpose to inquire. 
This is a quesion of apologetics, not of folklore. 

Many stories of Supernatural Birth belong to the cosmo- 
gonic legends of savage and barbarous tribes. These we 
may for the most part pass over. What may have happened 
to the monsters that in the dawn of things were the first to 
loom upon the horizon is hardly relevant. They may have 
had reasons of their own for their extraordinary conduct. 
Our business is with beings conceived in distinctly human 
terms and something like human proportions. The dis- 
tinction may be hard to define, seeing that savage tribes 
hold savage opinions as to the power of men and brutes 
(or of some men, at least, and some brutes) to change their 
forms at will. In the same way m'drchen have no clear 
dividing line in the savage mind from sagas (or stories 
believed in as recording actual events) nor religious 
narratives from secular histories. It is one of the charac- 
teristics of savagery that these things are not as yet differ- 
entiated. Intellectual evolution is going on ; but until a 


much higher grade of civih"sation be reached we cannot be 
sure that the divergence is complete. If, therefore, some 
of the stories I am going to refer to seem scarcely within 
the limits I have laid down, these difficulties in the way of 
definition must be borne in mind. 

We began our review of mdrcJien containing the incident 
of the Supernatural Birth by examples of the results of 
eating a magical fish or fruit. The fish is a means of 
impregnation comparatively little known in sagas. A 
legend of the Tupis of Brazil, however, bearing resem- 
blances to stories of the type of Beauty and the Beast, 
represents the hero, a supernatural being, as fertilising a 
young virgin by means of a mysterious fish.^ A curious 
piece of gossip is recorded by John Aubrey concerning 
Archbishop Abbot's mother, who is said to have dreamed 
that if she ate a jack the son then in her womb would be a 
great man. Accordingly, "she arose early the next morning 
and went with her pail to the river-side (which runneth 
by the house, now an ale-house, the sign of the Three 
Mariners) to take up some water, and in the water in the 
pail she found a good jack, which she dressed, and ate it 
all, or very near." Her son in due time was born, and 
grew up to be Archbishop of Canterbury.- If not exactly 
a great man, he was an able and honest one and a patriot, 
who suffered, by no means alone, from the superstition, or 
the malignity, of his successor, the "martyr" Laud. 

On the other hand, the eating of fruit is found in 

1 Featherman, Chiapo-Mar.^ 351. Owing to this writer's method 
of heaping his authorities together at the end of each section, a practice 
as mysterious as any recorded of savages, I have been unable to dis- 
cover on what authority this statement is made by him, or what are 
the details of the story. - Aubrey, Miscellanies^ 58. 


both hemispheres. In India it is told, as we might have 
expected, of the birth of Raja Rasalu. Rani Lonan, one of 
the two wives of Raja Salbahan of Sialkot, fell in love with 
her stepson Puran, and, because he did not return her 
passion, traduced him to her husband, who cut off his 
hands and feet and threw him into a well. Ptiran, how- 
ever, like the hero of the Bulgarian ballad, survived this 
cruel treatment. After some years he was rescued by the 
Gurti Gorakhnath, a Brahman of great sanctity, and became 
a celebrated fakir. Not knowing who he really was, the 
Rani and her husband, desirous of offspring, came to him 
to pray for a son. He induced her to confess her crime ; 
then, revealing himself, he gave her a grain of rice to eat, 
and told her she would bear a son who would be learned 
and brave and holy. That son was Raja Rasalii, a 
monarch identified with the historical Sri Syalapati Deva.^ 
Goga, a favourite Mahratta saint, is said to have been 
childless until his guardian deity bestowed upon him two 
barleycorns, one of which he gave to his wife and the 
other to his favourite mare. A son and the famous steed 
Javadia were the consequence.- The ancestry of the pre- 
sent, or Manchu, dynasty of China is traced to a heavenly 
maiden, who, having bathed one day in a certain pool, 
found on the skirt of her raiment a red fruit, placed there 
by a magpie. After eating it she found herself pregnant, 
and was delivered of a son of remarkable appearance, who 
spoke on the day of his birth. In obedience to a super- 

1 i. Leg. Punjab, i ; Steele, 247. Cf. Swynnerton, Raja Rasdlu, 3, 
where the rice is omitted. 

- Elliot, i. N. W. Prov.^ 256, note. Other accounts assert that the 
two barleycorns, or cocoa-nuts, were given to Goga's mother. Other 
examples in iii. N. Ind. N. and (5., 205, 243. 


natural voice she called him Aisin-gioro, ' the heaven-born 
to restore order to disturbed nations.' Having grown up, 
he embarked in a boat and drifted down the river, until he 
reached a place where families of three surnames were in 
constant broils. There he landed, and was breaking off 
willow branches, when a warrior, coming to draw water, 
saw him. Amazed at the hero's aspect, the warrior fetched 
his people, who came and inquired who he was. " I am 
the son of the heavenly maiden Fokolun," replied the 
youth, " ordained by heaven to restore peace among you." 
They took him and made him king ; and he reigned there 
in Odoli city, in the desert of Omohi, east of the mountains 
of Ch'ang-pai-shan. A Japanese tradition, reported by 
Pere Amyot, appears to be a variant of the same story. It 
relates that three heavenly maids, of whom Fokolun was 
one, descended to bathe. While they were praying 
Fokolun saw a tree half-covered with black cherries. She 
proceeded to eat of them, with the consequences we know. 
Being in this condition, she could not return with her sisters 
until she had brought forth her son and handed him over 
to a fisherman to be bred up.^ Fokolun is identified by 
Amyot with a goddess whom he calls Pussa. It is quite 
possible that the present dynasty of China owes this 
legendary origin to a similar feeling to that which dictated 
so many of the mediaeval miracle-stories in Europe. Fo-hi, 
the original founder of the Empire, was said to have sprung 
from a virgin named Ching-Mon, who ate a certain flower 
found on her garment after bathing. The striking resem- 

^ James, The Long White Motintain, 31, note, citing a Chinese 
chronicle ; Charencey, Le Fils de la Vierge, 15, citing Koppen, Die Re- 
ligion des Buddha ; ibid., 8, citing Ambassade memorable a t Empereiir 


blance to this tale of that of Fokolun is due to conscious 
forgery as little, and as much, as the achievements of 
Christian saints, equalling and surpassing the wonders 
recorded in the Bible.^ 

The magpie mentioned in the Chinese version of the 
legend just recorded is replaced by a crow in the analogous 
incident at the opening of the Volsimgasaga. A childless 
king and queen, we are told, besought the gods for an heir. 
Frigg, the mother-goddess, heard their prayers and sent 
them, in the guise of a crow, the daughter of the giant 
Hrimnir, and with her an apple, of which when the queen 
had eaten, she soon perceived that her wish would come to 
pass.^ In the fiftieth rune, that beautiful postscript to the 
Kalevala, Marjatta, the fair and gentle virgin, is addressed 
by the red bilberry and invited to pluck and eat. With the 
help of a staff she reaches down the mysterious fruit; but 
from the ground it climbs her shoe and then her knee, 
and so upward to her mouth, into which it slips and is 
swallowed. In this way she conceives. Her parents' 
reproaches are met by the assertion that she is the para- 
mour of none unless it be of fire, and that she will bear 
a hero who will rule the mighty, albeit Vainamoinen 
himself. In her extremity she applies to Ruotus for the 
vapour-bath which Finnish women are accustomed to take 
to facilitate delivery ; but from him and his loathsome wife 
she gets nothing better than a contemptuous recommenda- 
tion of a stable in the fir-forest. There, in a vapour-bath 
of the breath of horses, her child is born, and cradled in a 

^ Charencey, Le Fils, 14, citing Barrow's Voyage to China. Cf. 
Maury, Legendes Flenses, part I, for numerous mediceval examples of 
miracles in competition with the Bible. 

- Rydberg, 156, citing the Vohungasaga. 



manger. She cares for him as a mother ; but after a while 
he suddenly disappears, and she goes seeking him every- 
where. In her wandering she meets a star, and, sinking 
before it on her knees, she asks : 

** ' O thou star, that God created ! 
Of my son dost thou know nothing, 
Where my darhng son abideth, 
Where my golden apple tarries ? ' 
And the star made haste to answer : 
' If I knew I would not say it ; 
lie it is who hath created 
Me to gleam thro' cold and evil. 
Me to sparkle in the darkness.' " 

The moon gives her the like answer. Then she meets the 
sun ; and the sun tells her : 

" ' Well I know thy little loved one. 
He it is who hath created 
Me thro' all the hours of daylight 
In the sheen of gold to dazzle, 
Me to glint in sheen of silver. 
Well I know thy little loved one. 
Yonder, woman, is thy darling, 
Plunged in marshes to the girdle, 
In the moor e'en to the armpit.'" 

Thus directed, Marjatta found her son and brought him 
home. He grew up beautiful but nameless. His mother 
called him Floweret, but strangers dubbed him Idler. An 
old man named Virokannas came to baptize and bless him, 
but hesitated to do so ere he had been examined and 
proved. Then came Vainamoinen old and trusty, w^ho 
sentenced the boy, as he had been taken from the marsh 
and was sprung from a berry, to be laid upon the ground 
of the berry-bearing meadow, or taken to the marsh, and 


his head crushed with a tree. But the son of the berry 
repHes : 

'" O thou old man without insight, 

Without insight, full of folly ! 

Thou hast given a foolish sentence ; 

111 thou hast the laws expounded ! ' " 

Vainamoinen himself had taken the child of his own 
mother and thrown it into the water to redeem his own 
hfe. The boy reminds him of this, and hints that he will 
have to pay the penalty of his deed. Virokannas then 
quickly baptizes the boy, and blesses him to become king 
of Karjala and guardian of all powers. 

I have narrated this incident somewhat at length, to 
exhibit the obvious mixture of heathen and Christian 
elements which it contains. Marjatta, there can be little 
doubt, is the Virgin Mary; Ruotus has been identified 
with Herod ; and the discomfiture and departure of Vaina- 
moinen, which follow the cited passages, point very 
clearly to the expulsion of paganism as typified by the 
mighty figure of the great sorcerer. Lonnrot's method in 
the compilation of the epic from fragmentary songs leaves 
much to be desired in the certainty of traditional origin of 
many of its verses, perhaps of entire episodes ; and the one 
before us may not be free from suspicion. Yet it is hardly 
likely that the poet would have had recourse to the savage 
conceit of the berry, had he not found it already in the 
legend he has presented to us. It would be diflftcult to 
match it in the sagas of modern Europe. As we saw just 
now, the analogous conceit of the fish is found in the case 
of Archbishop Abbot in no bolder shape than a dream. 
So the Irish Life of Saint Molasius of Devenish, preserved 
to us in a manuscript, written, probably from dictation, in 


the sixteenth century — that is to say, not long before the 
Enghsh tale became current — presents the holy man's 
mother as dreaming "that she got seven fragrant apples ; 
and the last apple of them that she took into her hand her 
grasp could not contain it for its size ; gold (as it seemed 
to her) was not lovelier than the apple." Her husband 
interprets the dream of "an offspring, excellent and famous, 
with which the mouths of all Ireland shall be filled:" an 
interpretation of course justified by the saint's birth.^ We 
may conjecture that the legend in an earlier form related 
that impregnation took place by means of an apple; but 
before it was put into writing, perhaps long before, the 
incident had been modified by the slowly growing intelli- 
gence of the folk who related it. 

To the aborigines of North America, however, this 
unusual mode of generation has always been within the 
limits of belief. Yehl, the famous hero of the North-west 
Coast, effected one of his numerous births by transforming 
himself into a spear of cedar or a blade of grass, or, as it is 
t old in a variant, a drop of water, and being swallowed by 
his principal opponent's daughter, or sister, as she was 
drinking. Most legendary heroines have been satisfied 
with one such miracle. This lady seems to have been 

^ ii. Silva Gad., 19, translating a MS. of the sixteenth century in the 
British Museum. Stories of dreams of this kind are found everywhere. 
Compare, for example, Ragnhild's dream of her son Harold Fairhair 
(i. Morris and Magnusson's HeimskriJigla, 83) and the well-known 
stories of Athelstan's mother and Cyrus' mother. So Gorm, king of 
Denmark, dreamed of the sons, Knut and Harald, who were to be 
born of his wife Thyra, daughter of Ethelred, king of England. Saxo, 
319 (Elton's version, 387). According to a writer quoted by Southey 
(iii. Commonplace Bk., 753) Joan of Arc's mother dreamed she gave 
birth to a thunderbolt. 


specially unfortunate ; and we do not wonder at the 
suspicions of her natural guardian, when we are expressly 
told that she was not allowed to eat or drink anything 
until the chief had examined it, as she had become 
pregnant from eating certain things many times before. 
One man cannot know all Yehl's adventures, as the 
Thlinkit very truly assert ; for all their accounts differ. 
The adventure we are now dealing with was undertaken 
for the purpose of rescuing the sun, moon and stars, which 
his antagonist, whose favourite grandson he thus became, 
had stored away in three mysterious chests. On a previous 
occasion he had assumed the unlikely form of a small 
pebble on the sea-shore. A woman whose sons had all 
been slain by her brother was pacing the beach and weep- 
ing for the dead, when a large fish — it is equally credible 
whether a dolphin or a whale — pitied her and spoke to her, 
telling her to swallow the pebble and drink some sea-water. 
She did so, and bore a child, Yehl, who avenged her on his 
uncle. After all his various achievements on behalf of 
mankind, Yehl became the totem of the Raven Clan of 
the Thlinkit.^ When America was discovered, the Aztecs, 
though they had not emerged from the Stone Age, were, 
compared with the Thlinkit, a civilised people. Yet they 
continued to believe in the generation of their famous god 
Quetzalcoatl in a similar manner to that of Yehl. One 

^ iii. Bancroft, 99, apparently quoting Holmberg, Ethn. Skizz. ; 
Ensign Niblack, in Nat. Mus. Rep., 1888, 379. The allied people, the 
Koniagas of the southern shores of Alaska, have a similar tradition 
concerning Elkh, the founder of their race. The Thlinkit and Koniagan 
traditions seem in fact to be one and the same. Featherman, Aoneo- 
Mar., 458. The Lenape tradition of Nanabozho, as reported by 
Lindstrom about 1650, seems to attribute that hero's birth to his 
mother's drinking out of a creek. Brinton, Lenape, 131. 


account relates that he owed his birth to a precious green 
stone, identified by Captain Bourke with the turquoise, 
which his mother Chimalma found one day while sweeping, 
and swallowed.^ 

I shall have to recur to American traditions ; but I must 
first mention other instances of pregnancy from eating or 
drinking. Heitsi-Eibib, the Hottentot ancestor-god, owed 
his birth to this cause. In one of the legends a young girl 
picks a kind of juicy grass, chews it and swallows the sap. 
Thence becoming pregnant, she gives birth to the hero. 
In another legend it is a cow that eats of a certain grass, 
and Heitsi-Eibib is consequently born as a bull-calf. ^ In 
the saga of Ardshi-Bordshi we are told that a childless 
queen procured from a hermit a handful of earth to be 
boiled in sesame oil in a porcelain vessel. On boiling it, 
behold ! it was changed into barley porridge, which she ate, 
but neglected to eat the whole of it, as the hermit com- 
manded. AVhen she had eaten she found herself "in 
blessed circumstances," and bore Vikramaditya, a Bodisat 
and a king of renown. Her maid, having finished what 
was left of the porridge, was also delivered of a boy, who 
became the Bodisat's faithful companion.^ Here, as M. 
Cosquin remarks, we are reminded of the mdrchen in the 
Pe?ita7neron, already cited. The material eaten bears us 
back to a story alleged to be part of the Siamese cosmology. 

1 Capt. Bourke, in ix. Rep. Bur. Ethn., 590, quoting Mendieta. 

2 Hahn, Tsuni-\\goam, 69, 68. 

3 Busk, Sagas from the Far East, 267. Unhappily Miss Busk's 
translations in this work cannot be trusted ; but it contains the only 
English version of the Ardshi-Bordshi with which I am acquainted. 
i. Cosquin, 69. Another version of the story, as told by an illiterate 
Buddhist monk of Zain Shaben in north-western Mongolia, is given 
iii. F.L.Jotirti., 321. 



After a gradual degeneration of the human race, we are 
assured, the sea will be dried up and the earth destroyed 
by fire. Converted into dust and ashes, it will be purified 
by a wind, which will carry off all remains of the conflagra- 
tion. So sweet an odour will then exhale from the purified 
soil that it will draw from heaven a female angel, who will 
take of this sweet-smelling substance and eat. The pleasure 
will cost her dear j for she will no more be able to ascend 
to her native home, and by means of her strange food she 
will conceive and give birth to twelve sons and daughters, 
who will repopulate the world. For an inconceivably long 
period this new race will remain gross and ignorant, until 
in the fulness of time a god will be born to dissipate the 
darkness by teaching the true religion, the virtues that must 
be practised, the vices that must be shunned and all other 
sciences needful to be known, giving to the people scrip- 
tures where all these things are explained, and writing upon 
their hearts the holy law, so long effaced from the mind of 

The Shih King, one of the sacred books of the Chinese, 
contains an ode intended to be recited at a sacrifice in the 
ancestral temple of Shang. It refers to the origin of 
Shang's father Hsieh. His mother was a concubine of 
Khti, a ruler who flourished in the twenty-fifth century 
before Christ. She was bathing, as these Chinese heroines 
frequently are on such occasions, when a heaven-com- 

^ Voyage de Siam des Peres Jesiiites, 296. In one of the Magic Songs 
of the Finns, Louhiatar swallows iron hail, the siftings of Tuoni's 
mortar, and after thirty summers is disburdened of a progeny which 
*' become all sorts of sicknesses, a thousand causes of injury." Hon. J. 
Abercromby, in iv. Folklore^ 40. Probably this too is a cosmological 


missioned swallow dropped an egg, which she took and 
gulped down, becoming in this way the mother of Hsieh.^ 
The lady is not here, as in the case of other founders of 
Chinese dynasties, represented as a maiden. Yu's mother, 
for instance, appears to be thus regarded. A pearl, a 
substance not more unpromising than a pebble, fell in her 
bosom, and she swallowed it. According to one version 
the boy was born from her breast.^ A Mongolian tale 
traces the origin of the Chinese nation to a Khan's 
daughter, who compelled a poor Bande to disgorge a 
precious stone as big as a sheep's eye, which he had stolen 
from two men, and swallowed. As soon as he brought it 
up, she seized and swallowed it in her turn. It rendered 
her pregnant. The Bande, by reading a charm, turned her 
into a she-ass ; and in this form she gave birth to twin 
boys, one good, the other evil. From them the Chinese 
nation is descended." Several Tartar tribes ascribe their 
lineage to Alankava, the virgin daughter of Gioubine, son 
of Bolduz, king of the Mongols. One night a great light 
awakened and embraced her, entering her mouth and 
passing through her body. As this peculiar proceeding 
was repeated every night, in order to dissipate suspicions 
of her virtue (for she had become pregnant) the chiefs of 
the national assembly were introduced into her chamber to 
witness the occurrence. When her time was come she 
gave birth to three boys, each of whom was the ancestor of 
a tribe, and from one of whom Genghis Khan and Tamer- 
lane descended.* An Irish tradition more modestly (pro- 

^ iii. Sacred Books ^ 307. - De Charencey, Le Fils, 13. 

' iv. F.L. Record, 23. 

'* Liebrecht in a note to Gerv. Tilb., 72, quoting d'Herbelot. Cf. 
De Charencey, Le Filsy 13, where a similar Chinese tale is mentioned. 


bably for reasons discussed on a previous page) presents 
the mother of Kieran, the first saint born on Hibernian 
soil, as only dreaming that a star fell into her mouth.i 

The heroic traditions of Ireland — at least those of 
Ulster — do not stick at a dream. Both Conchobar and 
Cuchulainn were of supernatural birth. Cathba, the noble 
Druid, was thirsty one night ; and Ness, his wife, finding 
nothing in the house, went down to the river Conchobar 
and drew from thence, filtering the water through her veil. 
When she brought it to her husband and a light was struck, 
lo ! there were two worms in the water. Thereupon 
Cathba drew his sword and forced his wife, under threat 
of death, to drink what she had brought for him. She 
drank two mouthfuls, and swallowed at each mouthful one 
of the worms. She soon found she had conceived ; and it 
was of those worms she had conceived, though later times 
discredited this, asserting that the king of Ulster was her 
lover and the father of her child Conchobar.^ This mode 
of conception was a family failing, for Cuchulainn, Con- 
chobar's nephew, was born in the same way. His mother, 
Dechtire, Conchobar's sister, returning from the funeral of 
a foster-son of whom she had been very fond, asked for 
a drink in a bronze cup. As she put the cup to her lips 
she felt a little creature enter her mouth with the drink. 
After drinking she lay down to sleep, and a man appeared 
to her in a dream, telling her, among other things, that 

1 ii. Silva Gad., i, translating a MS. written in 1780-82, which in 
its turn is a transcript of a translation from a Latin life of this some- 
what doubtful saint, printed in the Acta Sanctorum Hibernice at 
Louvain, 1645. The MS. in question is in the British Museum. 

2 vi. Rev. Celt., 179 ; D'Arbois de Jubainville, epopee Celtique, 16 ; 
both translating Mss. of the fourteenth century now in the library of 
the Royal Irish Academy at Dublin. 


he had been her foster-son, that now he had entered her 
womb and she was pregnant of him, and that he was to be 
called Setanta. This man was Lug, one of the ancient 
Celtic divinities, identified with the grandson of Balor, the 
mythical warrior of Tory Island.^ 

The manuscripts in which both these stories are pre- 
served are much older than those that record the dreams 
preceding the births of Saints Kieran and Molasius. Yet 
the life of Saint Molasius, modern though it be in the 
recension we possess, attributes to its hero the power 
so often wielded by an Indian fakir. When he was 
journeying, with certain of his clerics, in the land of 
Carbery he saw a woman milking, who replied courteously 
and even generously to a request for a drink for his atten- 
dant. In return, she prayed for the saint's intercession to 
be relieved of her barrenness, for hitherto she was childless. 
Then Molasius bade her: "Call thy husband; let him 
take my cup to the well and bring us back its fill of water 
in it." When the water was given into his hand he blessed 
and consecrated it, and passed it to the woman to drink, 
prophesying that henceforth she should be pregnant and 
bear a son, who was to be " good, miraculous, saintly, 
wonder-working, righteous." Thus was born " the very 
noble bishop Finnacha," so named by Molasius when he 
gave his mother to drink.- The Book of the Dun Coiv at 
the end of the eleventh century gives a similar incident in 
a much more savage form. Dermot, king of Ireland, had 

^ D'Arbois de Jubainville, Epopee Celtiqjie, 37, translating Leahhar 
na hUidhre {Book of the Dun Cow), MS. dating back to about the year 
1 100. See another translation, ix. J^ev. CeU., 12. For Balor's story 
as given in modern folklore, see ante, p. IS- 

- ii. Sz'lva Gad., 23. 


several wives, of whom Mughain was unhappy, because she 
had no children and the king was purposing to dismiss 
her. So she sought out Finnian and bishop Aedh, and 
implored their succour. They blessed water and gave it 
her to drink ; but the result was nothing more encouraging 
than a lamb. Finnian consoled her as best he could for 
the mishap, and blessed more water. The next time she 
brought forth a salmon literally of silver. This, of course, 
was appropriated by the holy man for the service of the 
church as material for a reliquary and other sacred objects. 
Then he and bishop Aedh made another and supreme 
effort. They blessed her, and one of them put water into 
his cup and gave it to the queen, who both drank of it and 
washed in it. She ought perhaps to have done this before, 
for " by this process she found herself with child, and, this 
time, had a son, who was Aedh Slaine."^ 

Before considering other stories of impregnation by 
drinking, let me refer to one more Irish tale. It concerns 
the birth of Boethine, son of Cred, the daughter of Ronan, 
king of Leinster, and is found in the Leabhar breac^ a 
manuscript of the beginning of the fifteenth century. The 
maiden gathered cress on which the sperDia ge?iitale of a 
certain robber, Findach by name, had just fallen, and ate 
it, "and thereof was born the everUving Boethin."^ This 
unsavoury story reminds us of the Princess Chand Rawati 
in the Sanskrit romance. It bears even a closer resem- 
blance to two legends from opposite quarters of the globe. 
One of them relates to a Peruvian goddess, Cavillaca. She 

^ ii. Silva Gad., 89, translating Leabhar na hUidhre. 

2 Prof. Whitley Stokes, in ii. Rev. Celt., 199, translating the Leabhar 
breac, a MS. written shortly before 141 1, now in the Royal Irish 


was a beautiful maiden who spurned the advances of the 
gods. One day she sat down to weave a mantle at the 
foot of a lucma-tree. The wise Coniraya Uiracocha there- 
upon turned himself into a beautiful bird, and sat in the 
boughs of the tree. He took some of his semen, made it 
into the likeness of a ripe and luscious lucma, and dropped 
it at the maiden's feet. She picked it up, ate it with much 
reHsh, and immediately conceived. In due course she 
gave birth to a son. When the boy could crawl, she called 
an assembly of the gods, and, indignantly protesting her 
virginity, demanded which of them was the father of the 
child. As nobody came forward to claim the honour, she 
put the little one on the ground, saying : " Doubtless his 
father will be the one to whom he crawls, and at whose 
feet he rests." The child crawled to the feet of a ragged 
beggar, who sat humbly in the lowest place of all. The 
beggar was Coniraya ; but Cavillaca, not recognising him, 
disdained the thought of being mated with such dirt and 
squalor; and, catching up her boy, she fled from his 
pursuit, though he assumed magnificent golden robes and 
divine splendour, until she came to the sea-coast of Pacha- 
camac, where she and the child, entering the sea, were 
changed into two rocks, yet visible long after the Spanish 
Conquest, and doubtless to the present day.^ The other 
legend is that of the nymph Adrika in the MahabhCirata. 
Being by the curse of some god metamorphosed into a fish, 
Adrika feeds on a leaf dropped into the water by the 
favourite agency of a bird — in this instance, a hawk. 

^ Francisco de Avila's Narrative, translated by Markham, Rites and 
LawSf 125. It is needless to point out the analogy of part of this tale 
to modern folktales like Basile's tale of Pervonto, cited in the last 


Upon the leaf was the sperm of her lover, King Upari- 
charas. The fish is then caught by fishermen and brought 
to him. When it is opened the nymph resumes her proper 
form, and two fish, a male and female, are born of her.^ 
The same incident is the substance of a folktale slightly 
less loathsome in form among the Gipsies of southern 
Hungary. They say that a rich peasant's wife repulsed 
Saint Nicholas, who appeared to her as a beggar, and was 
transformed by him into a little fish and condemned to 
remain in that state until impregnated by her husband. 
Her husband threw the fish into the brook; and there it 
abode a long time, until one day the goodman sat before 
his door and thought of his wife, and how he could deliver 
her. So as he sat there he spat, and the spittle fell on a 
green leaf at his feet. Then a magpie, so often a go- 
between in these matters, snapped up the leaf in her beak 
and flew away with it. But as she flew she met another 
who would have torn the leaf from her ; and in their struggle 
it fell into the water and was devoured by the little fish. 
Thereupon the heroine returned to her true woman-form 
and to her husband, for she had been fertilised by his 
spittle.^ The Gipsy version appears to be derived from 
the Mahabharata^ or more probably from the saga whence 
the poet fashioned the episode in question, and was doubt- 
less brought from the East by the remote forefathers of 
the tribe. 

We might linger long on the supernatural might of Indian 

1 De Gubernatis, ii. Zool. Myth., 331. The ancient nations of the 
Mediterranean basin believed that the mouth was the ordinary way of 
impregnation for fishes. Herod, ii. 93; ^lian, Nat. Aiiitn., ix. 6T). 
I have found a similar belief among the peasantry of Gloucestershire, 
where I am writing, as regards the pea-hen. 

2 Von Wlislocki, Volksdicht., 300. 


kings and rishis, as well as the equally chaste and pious saints 
and reavers of Irish legend ; but we must tear ourselves 
away from their edifying and veracious histories to seek the 
magical potation and the magical food elsewhere. The most 
illustrious birth by the former means was that of Zoroaster. 
A Parsee tradition preserved in the Selections of Zad-sparam, 
who wrote shortly before the year a.d. 881, ascribes the con- 
ception of the great Iranian teacher to his mother's drink- 
ing of homa-juice and cow's milk infused with his guardian 
spirit and glory.^ The lark, it is said in Roumania, was a 
maiden born of Gheorghina, the consort of an emperor 
named Titus. The imperial pair were childless ; but an old 
woman in a dream directed the emperor that his wife 
should drink of the brook which watered a certain forest. 
She did so, and gave birth to a lovely daughter, who fell 
in love with the sun, but was cursed by his mother and 
changed into a bird.^ Two divinities worshipped in a 
country temple in Annam are thus accounted for. A child- 
less man and wife dwelt in the village. One rainy autumnal 
night the woman put an earthen vessel to receive the drip- 
pings of the roof, and she saw a star fall into the vessel. 
Astounded at the occurrence, she called her husband and 
told him what had happened. They resolved to say 
nothing about it, but to drink the water. The woman 
became pregnant, and after going three years in that state 
she was at length delivered of three blue eggs. The story- 
teller considered it necessary at this point to observe that 
the husband was very much surprised, and carefully kept 

^ V. Sacred Bks., 187. Unfortunately Mr. West, the translator, has 
not given that part of the Selections which relates to Zoroaster's life — 
only a summary of its contents. 

^ viii. Rev. Trad, Pop.^ 601, translating S. H. Marian. 


the adventure to himself. However, they hatched the eggs, 
and three serpents crawled out, which followed their father 
about whithersoever he went. One day he had the ill-luck 
to cut off the tail of one of them. The wounded serpent 
forthwith was transformed into a fair youth, who said : " My 
brothers and I are heavenly genii who committed a sin, and 
were sent upon earth to succour the kingdom. They will 
stay, but I reascend to heaven in a tempest which will be a 
sign of the truth of my words." The two other serpents 
remained. Sometimes they were changed into men of 
extraordinary powers ; they rendered signal service against 
China, and ultimately were deified.^ According to a 
Finnish song, the lovely maiden Kasaritar was also three 
years in a state of pregnancy. An ogress had spat upon the 
waves, and Kasaritar had swallowed the bubble of froth. 
When at length she brought forth, it was an evil brood, the 
lizard.- The Kotons are a Mongolian tribe. They say 
that the daughter of one of their khans went with forty of 
her maidens to a field to gather djemuis to eat. Becoming 
thirsty, the girls all went to the water and drank. In the 
midst of the water was a drop of blood, which was imbibed 
by the khan's daughter and caused her to conceive. Her 
father drove her away ; but her son afterwards became khan.^ 

1 Landes, Annani., 12. There is a Japanese tale of a lady who, 
having been barren for many years, at length, as the result of much 
prayer to the gods, bore five hundred eggs. They were thrown into 
the water in a box, but rescued by a fisherman, incubated in an oven, 
and all happily hatched. Five hundred heroes were thus produced, 
whom their mother was afterwards glad to recognise and receive back. 
This is the legend of Bunsio, the goddess of fruitfulness and riches. 
Ploss, i. Weib, 441, quoting Horst. 

2 Hon. J. Abercromby, in i. Folklore, 331. 
•^ iv. F.L./ourfi., 21. 


We are not told here whether the blood was human. 
The analogy of some other sagas, and of several inarche?i, 
would lead to the supposition that it must be understood 
to be a man's blood. Almost any portion of a man may 
be possessed of fructifying power. One of the mdrcheii 
already passed in review attributes it to a man's heart, and 
another to the ashes of a burnt skull. A story current 
among the Serbs is parallel to the latter. The emperor, 
hunting, finds a skull and causes his horse to step on it. 
The death's-head cries out : " Why dost thou tread upon 
me ? I am able to injure thee yet." The emperor, hearing 
this, picks it up, burns it and collects the ashes in a casket. 
His daughter opens the casket and discovers the ashes. 
To ascertain what the contents of the box are, she wets her 
finger, dips it in the ashes and licks it. A boy is the result, 
who after a variety of adventures becomes the founder of 
Constantinople. This saga is found also in Ukrainia 
attached to the name of a national hero, Paliq.^ As 
M. Dragomanov, who has brought these Serbian and 
Ukrainian legends under the notice of Western students, 
remarks, the tale is found as a marchen in the Turkish 
Tuti-Nameh^ where it appears under the name of "The 
story of the skull through which eighty persons lost their 
lives." There the man who picked up the skull was a 
merchant ; instead of burning it, he ground it to powder ; 
his daughter's son had a reputation for wisdom, and was 
called in to say why a fish laughed when the vizier's over- 
modest slave-girl refused to look at it, lest it should be a 
male. The youth, thus called on, reveals to the vizier the 
presence in his harem of forty men disguised as women, 
the lovers of his forty slave-girls ; and the slaves and their 
^ M. Dragomanov in Compte Rendu du Congres, 46. 


lovers are all put to death, to the number of eighty.^ I 
mentioned in the last chapter a Lithuanian story of a 
hermit who was burned, all but his heart, which was after- 
wards eaten by a maiden and caused her to give birth to a 
son. In a Sicilian legend this holy man is identified with 
Saint Oniria, or Neria. The maiden's son is a new birth 
of the saint, who proves his sanctity when a child of only 
five years by convincing his grandfather and his mother's 
godfather of the salvation of a poor, despised, dead beggar, 
and the damnation of a w^ealthy sinner, though borne to 
his grave upon a costly bier and accompanied by monks 
with burning tapers, and by revealing the existence of a 
hoard of gold beneath a dunghill. He is then taken up to 
heaven, and only appears again to save his grandfather's life 
when accused of murder.^ 

A Gipsy tradition from Transylvania derives the origin 
of the Leila tribe from a king's daughter who was thrust 
out by her brother and his wicked wife, because the latter 
envied her that she was the fairer. In her wanderings she 
was pitied by three Keshalyi, or Fates ; and one of them 
dropped some of her hairs, which the lovely maiden' ate and 
brought into the world a son. From this child sprang the 
tribe, and he gave his descendants the name of his mother.^ 

^ ii. Tuti-Nameh, 85. With these stories may be compared a 
Transylvanian Gipsy saga concerning the origin of the Ashani tribe. 
Ashani, the eponymous mother of the tribe, was the child of a man to 
whom a supernatural being appeared in a dream riding on the man's 
own cow, and commanded him to slay the cow, burn its flesh and let 
his wife eat of the ashes. He was then to sleep with her upon the 
cowhide. Compliance with this command was followed by Ashani's 
birth. Von Wlislocki, Volksdicht., 184. 

^ ii. Gonzenbach, 165 ; Crane, 208. 

3 Von Wlislocki, Volksdicht., 183. See also his Volksgl. Zig., 14. 
On the Keshalyi's hair, see post^ p. 155. 


But the Supernatural Birth comes about in mdrchen by 
other means than eating or drinking. It is the same in 
sagas. The sense of smell has been known to possess this 
marvellous virtue. The spirit of the pole-star, if we may 
credit a Chinese tale, visited a girl and gave her a fragrant 
herb called Heng-wei, which caused her to become the 
mother of Chang, who was appointed about the year 
25 of our era to the office of Master of Heaven.^ 
The Guril Gorakhnath, whom we have already found per- 
forming wonders, once gave a queen desirous of offspring 
two flowers. Two sons were born to her ; but because she 
had deceived him she was doomed to die at their birth. ^ 
According to a poem written in Old French by a priest at 
Valenciennes about the middle of the thirteenth century, 
Abraham planted in his garden the Tree of Knowledge, 
flung by God out of Paradise after the Fall. His daughter 
became pregnant by the scent of a blossom broken off 
from it, and bore Phanuel, from whom the Virgin Mary 

Or it is enough for the magical article to be placed in the 
predestined maiden's bosom. When from the blood of the 
mutilated Agdestis a pomegranate-tree sprang up. Nana the 
nymph gathered and laid in her bosom some of the fruit 
wherewith it was laden, and from hence, in classical belief, 
Attis was born.4 In a Latin myth, Caeculus, the son of 
Vulcan and Prseneste, was conceived by means of a spark 

1 Dennys, 135, citing the China Review. 

" i. Leg. Panjdby 139, 142. 

^ Liebrecht in a note to Gerv. Tilb., 69. Jonas Ilanway refers to 
a Mohammedan belief that the Virgin Mary conceived Our Lord by 
the smell of a rose. i. Han way, 179. I have not been successful in 
tracing his authority. 

* Arnobius, Adv. Gentes, v. 5 ; Pausanias, vii. 17. 


which leaped into his mother's bosom. The forty com- 
panions of the khan's daughter, in the Koton legend 
already cited, were quickened by laying stones on their 
bosoms ; and in this way from them multiplied the Sarabash 
tribes of the Altai mountains. On the western continent, one 
of the great Aztec deities, Huitzilopochtli, the brother and 
rival of Quetzalcoatl, had a similar origin. Coatlicue, the 
Serpent-skirted, was already the mother of many children. 
She dwelt on the mountain of the Snake, near the city of 
Tulla, and, being very devout, she occupied herself in sweep- 
ing and cleansing the sacred places of the mountain. One 
day, while engaged in these duties, a little ball of feathers 
floated down to her through the air. She caught it and hid 
it in her bosom ; nor was it long before she found herself 
pregnant. Thereupon her children conspired to put her 
to death ; but Huitzilopochtli, issuing from her womb all 
armed, like Pallas from the head of Zeus, speedily destroyed 
his brethren and sister and enriched his mother with their 

The Dorahs of New Guinea trace their parentage to a 
soHtary old man, who caught the Morning Star in the act of 
stealing his palm-wine. As ransom he obtained from the 
felon a magical wand. This wand possessed the property 
of making a virgin a mother, by simply touching her bosom. 
The old man put its virtue to proof at once upon the 
loveliest girl of his island-home. She gave birth to a son 

1 iii. Bancroft, 296, quoting Torquemada ; Miiller, Amer. Urrel. ^601. 
The account given by Dr. Brinton makes Coatlicue a virgin and the 
ball of feathers merely "some white plumes." Amer. Hero- Myths, 77. It 
does not appear on what authority this account rests. I feel sure, how- 
ever, that it has not been given without reason. The round shield 
borne by the god in his usual representations was studded with white 
pellets of feathers. Zelia Nuttall, in v. IntertiaL Archiv., 39. 


called Konori, who proved his miraculous descent, as these 
children alone know how to do, by pointing out his father.^ 
This calls to mind a well-known passage of the Mahinogion 
of which Lady Charlotte Guest's modesty made nonsense. 
I venture to quote her charming English, with the need- 
ful correction. Math, the son of Mathonwy, is taking 
counsel with Gwydion and Gilvaethwy, the sons of Don, 
what maiden he shall seek for a wife. " ' Lord,' said 
Gwydion, the son of Don, ' it is easy to give thee counsel ; 
seek Arianrod, the daughter of Don, thy niece, thy sister's 
daughter.' And they brought her unto him, and the maiden 
came in. ' Ha, damsel,' said he, ' art thou a maiden ? ' 'I 
know not, lord, other than that I am.' Then he took up 
his magic wand and bent it. ' Step over this,' said he, ' and 
I shall know if thou art a maiden.' Then stepped she 
over the magic wand, and there appeared forthwith a fine 
chubby yellow-haired boy. And thereupon some small 
form was seen; but before any one could get a second 
glimpse of it Gwydion had taken it and flung a scarf of 
velvet around it and hidden it. Now the place where he 
hid it was the bottom of a chest at the foot of his bed." 
The yellow-haired boy was baptized by the name of Dylan. 
" As Gwydion lay one morning on his bed awake, he heard 
a cry in the chest at his feet ; and though it was not loud, 
it was such that he could hear it. Then he arose in haste, 
and opened the chest : and when he opened it, he beheld 
an infant boy stretching out his arms from the folds of the 
scarf, and casting it aside. And he took up the boy in his 
arms, and carried him to a place where he knew there was 
a woman that could nurse him. And he agreed with the 
woman that she should take charge of the boy. And that 
^ Featherman, Faptco-MeL, 43. 


year he was nursed. And at the end of the year he seemed 
by his size as though he were two years old. And the 
second year he was a big child and able to go to the Court 
by himself." This second boy was afterwards named Llew 
Llaw Gyffes, and the rest of the story deals with his 
adventures.! It is clear that the wand is credited with 
phallic power. A saga of the Warraus of British Guiana is 
unambiguous in the ascription of such power to the stump 
of a tree. This stump was half-submerged in a pool where 
two Indian women were bathing, when one of them touched 
it and it promptly made her its wife. To her brothers' 
indignation, a child was born ; and after it died, a second 
interview with the stump resulted in a second child. This 
child, a boy, was slain by his mother's brothers, who cut his 
body into small pieces. But from the grave arose a man 
stronger and fiercer than any Warrau. He was the first 
Carib ; and hence there has always been enmity between 
the Caribs and the Warraus. ^ 

We have found several cases, both of mdrchen and of 
sagas, where the masculine saliva and other secretions, if 
swallowed, produced pregnancy. The same consequence 
is believed to result from the spittle's being received into 
the woman's hand. The twin divinities, Hun Ahpu and 

1 Mabinogion, 421 ; i. Y Llyzyr Coch, 68. Note the singular 
resemblance of the production of Llew Llaw Gyffes to that of the 
children in the Zulu and Kaffir tales mentioned on p. 98. Compare 
also the Thlinkit cosmogonic saga of the child born from a cockle- 
shell. Eep. Nat. Mus. {1888), 378. 

2 Im Thurn, 378. Cf the tradition of the first khan of the Diurbiuts, 
a Mongolian tribe. It was revealed to ten men in a dream that of the 
tree Urun and the bird of the same name was born a divine son ; he 
became the khan : iv. F.L. Journ., 20. See also a curious tale from 
New Guinea on the origin of death : xi\. Journ. Anthrop. Inst., 465. 


Xbalanque, honoured by the Quiche of Central America, 
were thus begotten. Hunhun Ahpu and Vukub Hun 
Ahpu having been put to death by the two kings of 
Xibalba, a mysterious subterranean realm, the head of the 
former was placed between the withered branches of a 
calabash-tree of the kind afterwards called Hunhun Ahpu's 
head ; and immediately the tree became laden with fruit ; 
the head turned into a calabash, and was indistinguishable 
from the rest. Thereupon the kings tabooed the tree as 
sacred. Xquiq, the daughter of a prince named Cuchu- 
maquiq, broke the taboo. As she approached to pluck the 
fruit, Hunhun Ahpu's head spat into her hand, and she 
thereby conceived. Her father, perceiving her condition, 
condemned her to death ; but she persuaded the exe- 
cutioners to deceive him, and gave birth in due time to 
twins of extraordinary power, who avenged themselves on 
the rulers of Xibalba after the manner of Medea upon 

A similar incident is told in the Far East by the people 
of Annam concerning an historical personage who was put 
to death in the year 1443 of our era. He was, according to 
one account, the parent of the king's wife. According to 
another account, this lady was a serpent who had taken the 
form of a young girl and been adopted by the hero of the 
legend, and given by him in marriage to the king. At all 
events, she slew the king by biting off his tongue ; and she, 
with her father (or guardian) and all his family, was put to 
death. Her father was buried alive with one of his soldiers. 
The soldier's wife succeeded in penetrating the grave, but 
only to find her husband already dead. His chief, however, 
was still living, and, protesting his innocence, he spat in 

1 Popol Vuh, 89. 


the woman's hand, wherefrom she became pregnant and 
bore a son who founded a new dynasty.^ 

Conception has taken place in legend not only by the 
hand but by the foot, as in some of the mdrchen reviewed 
in the preceding chapter. The Shih ^/;?^ relates of Hau-^i, 
the ancestor of the kings of i^au, that ^lang Yiian, his 
mother, was childless until she trod on a toe-print made 
by God. The instant she did so she felt moved ; she 
conceived, and at length gave birth to a son.^ 

Impregnation, however, by an unusual part of the body 
is often attended by the inconvenience of birth by other 
than the natural exit. In the Sanskrit books kings are 
mentioned as born from hand, or right arm, or from the 
thigh or the top of the head, just as Bacchus was born from 
the thigh, and Athene from the head, of Zeus. The divine 
Parvati herself was conceived by a look and spit forth upon 
the world. The old French poem already referred to 
represents Saint Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary, as 
born from her father Phanuel's thigh, which he touched 
with a knife after cutting an apple, and thus caused it to 
conceive.^ Buddha, in the form of a white elephant, 

1 Landes, Awtam., 63. See also a curious myth of the aborigines 
of Hayti, one of the few descended to us, which represents a male 
personage as becoming pregnant by the spittle of another. Having 
been cut open, he brought forth a woman, by means of whom the 
island was subsequently peopled. Liebrecht, in a note to Gerv. Tilb., 
'J I, quoting indirectly Peter Martyr. 

2 iii. Sacred Bks., 396; De Charencey, Le Fih, 9. 

2 Grimm, Teut. Myth., 1449. In a modern Indian 7ndrchen from 
Salsette the heroine is born in an extraordinary manner. A woman 
pours into a mendicant's hands some rice boiling hot from the caldron, 
raising a big blister on his thumb. When his wife breaks the blister a 
little girl comes out. Miss Cox, Cinderella, 260, abstracting a story 
in XX. Indian Antiquary^ 142. 


entered his mother's right side, and from her right side 
he was born/ Cases hke these are frequent in cosmogonic 
myths which we need not discuss. 

But, before we leave the subject of impregnation by an 
unusual part of the body, it is not unimportant to observe 
that, during the Middle Ages, a similar idea was current 
respecting the conception of Jesus Christ. Sometimes 
painters represented the Holy Ghost as entering his mother 
at her ear in the shape of a dove. In the Church of the 
Magdalen at Aix, in Provence, is a picture of the Annun- 
ciation attributed to Albert Diirer, wherein waves of glory 
descend from God the Father, and in the midst of them a 
microscopic babe floats down upon the Virgin. During the 
fifteenth century the opinion seems to have been common 
that Our Lord entered already completely formed into 
the Virgin's womb — an opinion which orthodox theologians, 
in their perfect acquaintance with the divine arrangements, 
were able summarily to pronounce heretical. But a remark- 
able parallel to the story of Buddha's conception is 
presented by a picture of Fra Filippo Lippi, painted for 
Cosmo de' Medici and now in the National Gallery. The 
Virgin is seated in a chair with her Book of Hours in her 
hand, and the angel Gabriel bows before her. Above is a 
right hand surrounded with clouds. A dove, cast from the 
hand amid circling floods of glory, is making for the Virgin's 
navel, which it is about to enter; while she, bending 
forward, curiously surveys it. The picture is well worth 

1 xix. Sacred Bks., 2; Rhys Davids, Biiddhis)n^ 183. The father 
and the mother of Parakrama i., the restorer of the native kingdom of 
Ceylon, dreamed the same night that a beautiful elephant entered her 
chamber ; and this vi^as interpreted to foretell the birth of a hero. 
Buddhism Primitive ajid Present in Magadha and in Ceylon, by 
Reginald Stephen Copleston (London, 1892), 378. 


studying, not merely for its exquisite grace, colouring and 
finish, as one of the masterpieces of Tuscan art in the 
earlier half of the fifteenth century, but also as an exposi- 
tion of the ideas which were prevalent at that time 
under the sanction of the Church, and for the purpose of 
comparing them with Buddhist legends and other stories 
of supernatural birth, such as we are now considering. 
Mohammedan tradition ascribes the miraculous conception 
by the Virgin to Gabriel's having opened the bosom of her 
shift and breathed upon her womb.^ Parallel with this is 
a legend concerning Quetzalcoatl. Tradition varied much 
as to his Hfe. This probably means that his worship and 
story were ancient and widespread among folk of the 
Mexican stock. One version, as we know, records his 
birth from a precious stone swallowed by his mother 
Chimalma. In a variant the Lord of Existence, Tonacate- 
cutli, appears to Chimalma and her two sisters. The sisters 
were both struck dead by fright; but he breathed upon 
Chimalma, and by his breath quickened life within her, so 
that she bore Quetzalcoatl. Her son cost her her hfe. 
Having thus perished on earth, she was translated to 
heaven, like the Virgin Mary in the traditions of the 
Church, and was thenceforward honoured under the name 
of Chalchihuitzli, the Precious Stone of Sacrifice.^ But 
there is a world of difference between this apotheosis 
and that of the Virgin Mary. The latter is true, being 
guaranteed by the authority of the Church ; while the 
former rested only on the testimony of heathen priests and 
peoples, deceived of course by the Tempter of Mankind. 

1 Sale, Koran, note on ch. xxix., citing Arab authors. 
~ Brinton, Amer. Hero-Myths, 90 ; iii. Bancroft, 271 ; both citing the 
Mexican Codex in the Vatican and the Codex Telleriano-Remensis. 


It will be remembered that Mughain, before she bore 
Aedh Slaine, did more than drink of the consecrated water : 
she washed in it. Stories of conception by bathing have 
been seriously believed alike in the Old and New Worlds. 
A Zulu saga represents a king's daughters as bathing in 
a pool in the river. The youngest, a mere child, comes 
out with breasts swollen as large as a woman's. By the 
advice of the council of old men she is driven away. 
After wandering from place to place she gives birth to a 
boy who grows up a wise doctor. From what is said of his 
beneficent deeds it has been conjectured that we have here 
a corrupted account of Our Lord's birth, derived possibly 
from the Portuguese.^ If this be so (which is quite un- 
certain) it is important to note that the story has coalesced 
with native tradition as completely as the fiftieth rune of 
the Kalevala with the adventures of Vainamoinen. The 
main incident was apparently in harmony with native 
thought, and therefore easily attracted to itself the details 
of native life and discarded its own proper details, which 
would be incomprehensible. In the Hindu mythology 
Parvati, the spouse of Siva, justified her own irregular 
entrance upon the world by conception through bathing, 
without intercourse, and thus brought forth Ganesa.^ A story 
is told, in a work attributed to Plutarch, of Bacchus in the 
shape of the river Tigris carrying away the nymph Alphesi- 
boea and begetting on her a son, Medus. If Aristonymus, 
who seems to have been originally responsible for it, was 
reporting a genuine tradition, it must, so far as we can 
penetrate its Greek disguise, have referred to a similar 
adventure on the part of Alphesiboea. Medus w^as the 

^ Callaway, Tales^ 335. 
^ Ploss, i. Weiby 436. 


eponym of the Medes.^ Some of the Algonkins of North 
America traced the lineage of mankind from two young 
squaws who, swimming in the sea, were impregnated by the 
foam and produced a boy and girl.^ So the black Kirghiz 
pretended to have for their great foremother a princess who 
became pregnant by bathing in a foam-covered lake.^ 

The ancient Persians held a curious belief anent Sao- 
shyant, the future hero who was to come from the region 
of the dawn to free the world from death and corruption 
before the Resurrection. Three drops of the seed of 
Zoroaster, we are told in the sacred books, fell from him. 
What was bright and strong in it has been preserved by 
the agency of angels. At the appointed time a maid, 
bathing in the lake Kasava, will come in contact with it, 
and will conceive by it and bring forth the Saviour. 
Indeed, the orthodox view appears to be that she will triple 
the miracle, by thrice conceiving in this way and bringing 
forth three sons, of whom the two elder will be forerunners 
of the third. He will come with authority to reduce all 
peoples under the yoke of the true religion ; and the general 
Resurrection will follow his conquest of the world.* The 
Middle Ages, which believed that Antichrist, in rivalry 
with Christ, would declare himself born of a virgin, ^ would 
have seen nothing impossible in the kind of birth foretold 
for Saoshyant. Averrhoes, in fact, put forward as having 
actually occurred a case of a woman who became pregnant 

1 Plutarch, Names of Rivers and Mountains^ xxiv. 

2 Featherman, Aoneo-Mar.^ 80. 
^ De Charencey, Le Fils, 16. 

^ iv. Sacred Bks., Ixxix. ; v. 143 note, 144 ; xxiii. 195, 226, 307 ; 
De Charencey, Traditions, 31, quoting Tavernier ; Rev. Dr. Mills, in 
Nineteenth Century, Jan. 1894, 5i' 

5 Gerv. Tilb. (Decision i. c. 17), 6, 68. 


in a bath, by attracting the semen of a man bathing near. 
The admirable common sense of Sir Thomas Browne 
rejected this, with many more absurdities current in his 
day.i But he failed to convince those who stood by tradi- 
tion. A singular little book, refuting "Doctor Brown's 
Vulgar Errors^ the Lord Bacon's Natural History and 
Doctor Harvey's Book De Generatione^ Comenius and 
Others," was published in the year 1652. The writer, 
conscious no doubt of powers commensurate to the task 
he had undertaken, too modestly concealed his name, and 
has left the world baffled at the mystery of his identity. 
Admitting Averrhoes' story to be a strange one, he reproves 
Sir Thomas Browne's incredulity by saying : " Hee that 
denyeth a matter of fact, must bring good witnesses to the 
contrary, or else shew the impossibihty of the fact." This, 
he declares, had not been done. Then, after arguing in 
favour of the " fact," he goes on to uphold the belief in 
Incubi, "for to deny this, saith Augustine, doth argue 
impudence;" and moreover it is "to accuse the ancient 
Doctors of the Church and the Ecclesiastick Histories of 
falshood," and " to contradict the common consent of all 
Nations, and experience."^ This is crushing, though assur- 
edly an appeal to "the ancient Doctors of the Church" 
has always been successful in putting to shame the wisdom 
of the world; and Bacon, Sir Thomas Browne and the 
rest will for ever lie under the stigma of impudence, impiety 
and egregious folly. 

Not only water but wind has been deemed sufficient to 
cause the birth of gods and heroes. The examples most 

^ Browne, Vtdgar Errors (1. vii. c. 16), 371. 

- Arcana Microcosmi : or, The hid Secrets of Man s Body discovered, 
etc. By A. R. (London, 1652), 132. 


familiar to us are those of Hera, who conceived Hephaistos 
without male concurrence by simply inhaling the wind, 
and of the maiden (in Longfellow's poem, called Wenonah) 
who was quickened by the west wind and bore Michabo, 
the Algonkin hero better known as Hiawatha. ^ To these 
we may add the blind Loujatar, source of all evils, ugliest 
and most hateful of Mana's daughters, fructified by the 
east wind and bearing at a birth nine sons— nine several 
diseases to decimate mankind. Nor was she the first in 
the Finnish mythology to conceive in this manner, for 
Vainamoinen himself was the son of the virgin Ilmatar, 
who in the beginning, while as yet there was neither earth 
nor sun, moon nor stars, lay down upon the waters and was 
fecundated by the east wind. She bore her child for seven 
hundred years before she could bring him to the birth.- 

Montezuma, the culture-hero of the Pueblos of New 
Mexico, was the son of a maiden of exquisite beauty, but 
fastidious and coy. When the drought fell on her people 
she opened her granaries and fed them out of her abund- 
ance. " At last, with rain, fertility returned to the earth ; 
and on the chaste Artemis of the Pueblos its touch fell too. 
She bore a son to the thick summer shower, and that son 
was Montezuma." =^ The Chinese and the Tartars appear 

1 Brinton, Amer. Hero-Myths, 47, citing Schoolcraft, who must, 
however, be generally accepted with caution. 

- Kalevala, runes xlv. and i. I have already referred to another 
legend of the fertilisation of Loujatar, p. 114, note. The Magic Songs 
of the Finns are full of these stories. See Hon. J. Abercromby, in iv. 
Folklore, 35, 37, 47. The Magyars tell of a wind-begotten super- 
natural steed. Von Wlislocki, Volksgl. Mag., 10. Sir Walter Scott 
refers somewhere to a border ballad of a maiden impregnated by the 
night-wind ; but I have mislaid the reference. 

3 iii, Bancroft, 175, note. Cf. Dr. A. W. Bell, in \. Journ. Ethnol. 


able as usual to match all these traditions of partheno- 
genesis. The historian Ma-twan-lin has recorded that the 
king of the So-li, or northern barbarians, having been 
absent on a journey, found one of his concubines pregnant 
at his return. He would have put her to death, had she 
not asserted that a vapour about the size of an egg 
descended on her from the sky and caused her interesting 
condition. He shut her up, however, and she bore a son, 
who was thrown by the king's orders into the pigsty. The 
pigs warmed the babe with their breath. He was thrown 
into a stable, and the horses did the same, reminding us 
of the birth of Marjatta's child. The king then was 
persuaded of his slave-girl's truth. He brought up the 
boy; but he feared him as he grew and became a skilful 
archer, and sought therefore to destroy him. The youth 
fled southward until he reached a certain river. There was 
no way over ; so he struck the water with his bow, and the 
fishes and turtles, gathering together, formed a compact 
mass, that served as a bridge for the hero. He crossed 
dryshod, and, reaching a land to the north of Corea, 
founded there the nation and kingdom of the Fou-yu.^ 

The following seems a Corean variant of this legend. A 
king held captive in his palace a daughter of the river Ho. 
She was fertihsed by the rays of the sun and laid an 

Soc.y JV.S., 250, where "a dewdrop from the Great Spirit" is said to 
have fallen upon the maiden's bosom, entered her blood and caused 
her to conceive. This comes to the same thing ; but Bancroft's version 
seems more primitive. 

1 De Charencey, Traditions^ 34, citing the Marquis d'Hervey- 
Saint-Denis. According to an Irish tradition, related in America by 
a v^^oman from Roscommon, the ass and cow are accounted sacred, 
because these animals breathed upon the infant Jesus in the manger, 
and thus kept him warm. vi. Journ. Amer. F.L., 264. 


enormous egg, which the king caused to be thrown 
successively to the swine and to the dogs, to the horses 
and to the cattle. None of these would touch it ; and it 
was flung out into the desert. There the birds of the air 
flocked to it and covered it with their wings. The king 
then tried to break it, but failed ; and it was restored to 
the captive maiden. She wrapped it up and warmed it for 
some time, until it burst and a boy came forth. The 
people became attached to him ; but the king's ill-will was 
excited, and, warned by his mother, the youth deemed it 
prudent to flee. Announcing himself as the sun's son 
and the grandson of the river Ho, he was assisted to cross 
that river by the turtles and fishes as above ; and he at 
length arrived at the town of Ke-ching-ko, which he called 
Kao-kin-li, and became the founder of the kingdom of 
that name.i As late as the latter years of the sixteenth 
century, Hideyoshi, the Taiko of Japan, was not too 
civilised to make similar pretensions. They were, how- 
ever, veiled, after the manner of the Irish saints we have 
already mentioned, as a vision. He told the ambassador 
of the king of Corea : "I am the only remaining scion of 
a humble stock ; but my mother once had a dream in 
which she saw the sun enter her bosom ; after which she 
gave birth to me. There was then a soothsayer, who said, 
'Wherever the sun shines, there will be no place which 
shall not be subject to him. It may not be doubted that 
one day his power will overspread the empire.' " ^ A Jesuit 
father who visited Siam in the seventeenth century reports 
concerning Sommonocodon, the Siamese deity, that he was 
born of a virgin who had retired to the depths of a certain 
forest, there to live in holiness and austerity pending the 
1 De Charencey, Traditions^ 35. " i. Reed, 201. 


advent of God, then speedily expected. One day while she 
prayed she conceived by the prolific rays of the sun. The 
innocent maiden, ashamed to find herself with child, flew 
to a solitary desert, in order to hide herself from the eyes 
of mankind. Upon the banks of a lake, and without any 
sense of pain, she was miraculously delivered of the most 
beautiful babe in the world ; but having no milk wherewith 
to suckle him, and being unable to bear the thought of 
seeing him die, she jumped into the water, where she set 
him upon the bud of a flower, which blew of itself for his 
more commodious reception, and afterwards enclosed him 
as in a cradle.^ With these instances of sun-pregnancy 
may be compared the Chinese tale of the Emperor Yao's 
mother, who was rendered fruitful by the splendour of a 
star that flashed upon her during a dream.- 

The Kirghiz Tartar tradition of the birth of the 
celebrated Genghis Khan is perhaps a refinement of some 
such legend as these, due to change of religion or other 
civilising influence. As it has more than one resemblance 
to that of Danae I venture to give some of the details. A 
khan named Altyn Bel had an only son. At length his 
wife became pregnant a second time, and bore a daughter 
so beautiful that the khan commanded that no man was to 
see her ; and to conceal her from all human eyes she must 
be brought up hidden beneath the ground. Wherefore her 
mother gave her in charge to an old woman, who nourished 
her in the dark. The babe grew to maidenhood ; and one 

1 Second Voyage du Perc Tachard, 247. Sommonocodon is obviously 
Buddha. Both this story and one previously given (on p. 114) have 
been filtered through the minds of Jesuit fathers anxious to discover 
identifications with Christian teaching. 

" De Charencey, Le Fils, 13. 


day she asked her nurse: "Whither dost thou go from 
time to time ?" The nurse told her in reply that there was 
a bright world where her father and mother and all sorts of 
people dwelt ; and thither she herself went. The maiden 
prayed to be shown this bright world ; and under promise 
to tell no one of it the woman took her secretly out into 
the open air. As soon as the maiden came forth and 
looked upon the world she staggered and fainted ; for at 
the same moment God's eye fell upon her, and at His 
command she became pregnant. When this was known to 
the khan he ordered her to be put to death ; but, being 
dissuaded from so extreme a course, he allowed his wife to 
lock the maiden in a golden chest, together with some 
food, and to fling the chest into the sea, first binding the 
key on the outside. Two heroes, hunting, see the chest 
on the water. Agreeing between themselves that the one 
should take the chest and the other its contents, whatever 
they were, they capture and drag it ashore. On opening it 
they find the girl, who tells them her tale, and after her 
babe's birth weds one of them. Her son is Genghis. He 
grew up renowned among the youth for his uprightness and 
excellence ; and when the ruler of the town died childless 
the people chose Genghis in his place, and swore obedience 
to him. So Genghis ruled the folk in justice and peace ; 
and theft and lying vanished from among them. But his 
mother had borne to his stepfather three sons, who envied 
him and said : " This is a fatherless child ; we cannot 
suffer him as ruler. We have a father ; make one of us 
prince." When Genghis knew it, he resolved to flee, lest 
they should put him to death. He told his mother he 
would go to the source of the waters whereon she had come 
floating thither; to the place where his father dwelt he 


would go, and live. " O mother, I will let thee know 
whether I am alive or dead. I will throw feathers into the 
water : when you see the feathers floating by, you will know 
I am well; if the feathers do not float by, I shall be dead." 
Then he went upwards along the stream. (It was called 
the sea just now ; but the Tartars are inlanders.) He shot 
game. Out of the fells of the beasts he made a house ; 
the feathers of the birds floated down to his mother, and 
she knew that he lived. The people made one of his half- 
brothers prince. But his rule was corrupt ; liars and 
thieves and all sorts of criminals abounded, and he could 
not protect his people. Wherefore they resolved to 
depose him and to seek out Genghis again ; and five-and- 
twenty of their noblest went to find him. They came to 
the place where he dwelt, and hid themselves, lest he 
should flee them again. He was absent. When he 
returned they waited until he had eaten and lain down 
to rest. Four-and-twenty men then seized him, bowing 
the head ; but he flung them all aside. They spake : 
"O Prince and Lord, we are thy servants and come to 
thee as suppliants. Since thou hast left us our yourt 
has broken up. Come back and take again thy seat as 
ruler." He yielded and went back with them. On their 
return a council was held, and it was determined to submit 
the claims of Genghis and his three brothers to their 
mother, who should choose the prince from among them. 
The mother said to her sons : " You are all my children ; 
do not quarrel, I will decide the aflair. Hang all your 
bows upon this sunbeam : whose bow soever this beam 
bears, let him be ruler." All four brought their bows and 
hung them on the sunbeam. Only Genghis' bow remained 
hanging ; the bows of the other three brothers fell to the 


ground. And the woman said to all the folk : " Behold ! 
He became my child by God's decree ; by God's decree 
too the sunbeam bears his bow : make him your prince. 
If these three offer him violence, put them to death. You, 
O folk, are many : let no harm be done to him." And again 
he ruled in peace and justice. He took a noble wife, who 
bore him three sons and a daughter. So renowned was he 
that a messenger came from the ruler of the kingdom of 
Rome and prayed for one of his children to make him ruler 
of Rome; and he gave one of his sons. From Crim- 
Tartary came another to ask for another son as ruler ; and 
he gave him his second son. From the Khalifs people 
came another on the same errand ; and he gave him the 
third son. Then came an embassy from the Russians and 
asked for a child. As he had no more sons, he gave the 
Russians his daughter ; and they led her forth to make her 
their ruler. When he died, as he had sent all his children 
away to rule other lands, his brothers became forefathers of 
the evil sultans of his own people.^ 

Phallic power is not infrequently exercised in the legends 
of the Far East by the glances of divine, or quasi-divine, 
beings. After the latest cyclic cataclysm, which preceded 
by about eighteen thousand years the coming of Xacca, as 
the inhabitants of Laos call Buddha, a genius descended 
from the highest of the sixteen worlds to repeople the 
earth. With his scimitar he cut asunder a flower he 
beheld swimming on the water. From the stem a beautiful 
maiden sprang, and he grew enamoured of her. But such 
was her bashfulness that she refused to listen to his suit. 
Accordingly he placed himself at a certain distance from 
her, but directly opposite, where he could gaze upon her ; 
1 iii. Radlofif, 82. 


and with the ardour of his gaze she became a mother 
without ceasing to be a maiden. For the numerous issue 
that he had in this way begotten he furnished the earth 
with mountains and valleys, fruit-trees and animals fitted 
for the service of mankind, metals and precious stones and 
every other convenience.^ The Japanese pretend that the 
ancestors of the present race which possesses their empire 
were heroes or demi-gods, who in turn derived their origin 
from celestial spirits, of whom seven ruled the empire. 
The first three of these spirits had no wives, and three of 
the others impregnated their wives merely by their looks.^ 
The Marquesan islanders report that Hina, the daughter of 
the god Taaroa, bore to him a daughter named Apouvaru, 
who also became wife to her father. Taaroa and Apouvaru 
looked steadfastly at one another, with the result that 
Apouvaru became a mother. She brought into the world 
a son; and the visual intercourse being repeated she 
brought forth a second son. After repeating it again she 
brought forth a daughter. This seems to have satisfied 
these divine beings, for no further experiments are re- 
ported.^ Taaroa, however, according to the Leeward 
islanders, begot another son by shaking the shadow of a 
bread-fruit leaf over his daughter-wife, Hina.'^ At Rome 
the birth of Servius Tullius was by tradition imputed to a 
look. His mother Ocrisia was a slave of Tanaquil, the 
wife of Tarquinius Priscus. The likeness of a phallos 

^ De Charencey, Traditions, 38, quoting Father Giov. Phil. Marini ; 
Southey, iv. Co))nnonplace Bk., 41, quoting Picart. 

2 De Charencey, Traditioyts, 36. 

' Ellis, i. Polyn. Res., 262. Cf. the account of creation in the 
"Windward Isles, ibid., 324. 

* Ibid., 326. 


appeared on the hearth ; and she, who was sitting before 
it, arose pregnant of the future king. The household 
Lar was deemed his father, in confirmation of which a 
lambent flame was seen about the child's head as he lay 

We have found a Zulu indrcJmi narrating the birth of a 
child from a clot of blood placed in a pot and covered 
down. To similar efl"ect is the Melanesian tradition of 
Deitari, from Aurora Island. His father Tari went into 
his garden to work, when he felt something cut him. He 
put the blood into a bamboo vessel, returned to his house 
and set it down by the hearth. After many days his wife, 
going to cook food for him, was surprised to find food 
already cooked by somebody unknown. When this had 
recurred several times, the woman told her husband, and 
he bade her watch. Then she saw Deitari (Tari's blood) 
creep out of the bamboo vessel. He was exceeding fair 
to look upon ; and she hid him, and asked her husband 
what he had put in that bamboo vessel. Tari remembered 
about his blood, and said : " My blood was in that bam- 
boo." His wife replied : " I saw him come forth out of 
that bamboo that you had put there." And she brought 
him forth, and her husband rejoiced to see him.^ The 
Mexicans attributed the origin of the present race of 
mankind to a bone of one of the previous races who had 
perished in a cataclysm. The goddess Omecihuatl, having 
had many children in heaven, was at length delivered of 

1 Pliny, Nat. Hist., xxxvi. 70; Ovid {Fasti, vi. 629) and Arnobius 
{Adv. Gen., v. 18) regard Ocrisia as not quite so innocent. According 
to the former, Vulcan it was who was the father. Livy (i. 39) ration- 
alises the tale. 

- Codrington, 406. 


a knife of flint. This knife was flung by her elder children 
to the earth, and where it fell there sprang up sixteen 
hundred heroes from the ground. By the goddess' direc- 
tion, one of these heroes, Xolotl, was sent to Hell to fetch 
a bone of one of the men who had died. The god of Hell, 
having given it, repented and pursued the messenger, who 
fortunately escaped, but in his haste stumbled and broke 
the bone. He gathered up the pieces and brought them 
to his brethren, who put them into a vessel and sprinkled 
them with blood drawn from their own bodies. At the 
end of four days a boy was formed from the bone, and at 
the end of three more a girl, who became the ancestors of 
all nations. 1 

With these cases we may for the present close our long 
and monotonous list of Supernatural Births. If anybody 
shall complain that it is not exhaustive, he must be con- 
gratulated on his appetite for these marvellous occurrences. 
Practically the subject is inexhaustible. I have not attempted 
to deal with every story, nor with every kind of story. I 
have limited myself so far as possible to narratives analogous 
to those in the different forms of the Perseus myth, and to 
little more than specimens of them. In treating of sagas 
we have been able to show a range extended beyond that 
of mdrcheti. The Supernatural Birth, in the forms in which 
we have studied it, is known throughout Europe, Asia, and 
America, and in large groups of the Pacific Islands. It 
is repeated again and again in the Chinese and other 
Mongolian traditions. We have found it among the Zulus 
in South Africa ; and although there may be some doubt 
as to the native character of a portion of the story, there 


'SQ\x\h<iy,\v. Commo7tplace Bk., 142; Featherman, Chiapo-Mar,, 


can be none as to the mode of impregnation. When we 
know more about the legends and beUefs of the natives of 
the interior, we shall probably find the myth as thoroughly 
at home there as it is in an Italian nursery-tale. ^ 

1 While these sheets were passing through the press, Comte H. de 
Charencey, of whose studies I have availed myself in the foregoing 
pages, republished the substance of his articles on the Virgin's Son, 
with additions, in a work entitled Les Folklore dans les deiix niondes 
(Paris, Klincksieck, 1894). He seeks there to show that the New 
World borrowed many of its legends from the Old, and among them 
that of the Supernatural Birth. If I understand him aright, he follows 
M. Angrand in attributing Mexican civilisation to an Asiatic origin, 
and declares that while traditions of a powerful hero born without a 
father are found among the tribes whose culture was drawn from this 
source, they are not found among other peoples, like the Mayas and 
the Peruvians, whose civilisation is to be ascribed to an easterly 
provenience. It is always dangerous to assert a negative. We have 
already seen {ante, p. 118) that the Peruvians had a tradition of the 
Supernatural Birth, although the offspring did not turn out a hero. 
But Hiawatha was a hero exactly of the kind referred to ; and the 
foremother of the Bakairi of Central Brazil gave birth to the twin 
culture-heroes and parents of the race from swallowing two finger- 
bones. Von den Steinen, 373. The myth is far too widely spread, 
and far too deeply rooted in the savage beliefs of both hemispheres, to 
be dimply accounted for by borrowing. 



THE result of the inquiries of the last two chapters 
has been to show that the incident of the Super- 
natural Birth, in forms identical with, or at least analogous 
to, those of the Perseus cycle, is found, broadly speaking, 
over the whole world, — and that, not merely as a tale 
whereto no serious belief is attached, but, even more 
widely, as a saga, or record of what are deemed to have 
been actual events. But if, amid all differences of race 
and culture, birth has thus been held to have been caused 
on various occasions in these marvellous ways, it is natural 
to ask whether it has also been thought, possible still to 
make effectual use of such means to produce pregnancy in 
barren women. The answer is, that it has been, and still 
is, thought possible. In other words, the traditions of past 
miracles are organically connected in the popular mind 
with practices expressly calculated to produce repetitions of 
those miracles. It will be observed, however, that par- 
thenogenesis is often spoken of in the stories ; whereas, for 
the most part, the object of the practices I am about to 
describe is to promote conception by women who are in 
the habit of having sexual intercourse. The distinction is 



often immaterial. In the stage of civilisation wherein the 
stories are told and the practices obtain, medicine and 
surgery are not as yet separated from magic. We cannot 
therefore, speak positively as to the meaning and intention 
of all. But it is clear that a large number of the practices, 
as well as of the stories, imply, if we are not told in so 
many words, that the real origin of the child afterwards 
born is not the semen received in the act of coition, but 
the drug, or the magical potency of the incantation. 

In discussing the practices I shall ask the reader's pardon 
if I do not limit myself to such as are precisely analogous 
to the means found in the stories, nor even to such as are 
explicable by reasons already known to be accepted in 
barbaric Hfe. I desire, beyond these, to call the attention 
of scholars to some of the problems yet to be solved. We 
have learned to understand much that used to be 
mysterious in the ways and the thoughts of savages. But 
much remains unknown or misunderstood. And even if 
a solitary student cannot explain, he may render some 
small service to science in inquiring into, that which needs 

The favourite method of supernatural impregnation in 
stories is perhaps by eating some fruit or herb. Nor is this 
method by any means neglected in practice. The maxim 
attributed to the Druids leaps to the mind, namely, that 
powder of mistletoe makes women fruitful. As held by the 
Druids this is doubtless to be understood literally, just as 
among the ancient Medes, Persians and Bactrians the juice 
of the sacred Soma was prescribed to procure for unpro- 
ductive women fair children and a pure succession.^ Thus 
the birth of Zoroaster himself was, as we have seen, believed 
^ Ploss, i. JVeid, 431, citing Duncker. 


to have been caused. Among the rules for the performance 
of the Vedic domestic ceremonies, given in the Grihya- 
Sutras^ the householder who does not study the Upanishad 
treating of the rules for securing conception, the male 
gender of the child, and so forth, is directed in the third 
month of his wife's pregnancy to give her, after she has 
fasted, in curds from a cow which has a calf of the same 
colour as the dam, two beans and a barleycorn for each 
handful of curds. Then he is to ask her : " What dost thou 
drink ? " To which she is to reply : " Generation of a male 
child." When the curds and the question and response 
have been thrice repeated, he is to insert into her right 
nostril the sap of a herb which is not withered.^ One can 
hardly doubt that this is a ceremonial to procure offspring, 
though not performed, according to the rubric, until after 
conception has taken place. In the book of medical 
receipts deemed to be derived from the ancient Physicians of 
Myddfai, printed in the year 1861 from a Welsh manuscript 
bearing date in 1801, we find it stated that a decoction of 
mistletoe causes fruitfulness of body and the getting of 
children.- Here the magical plant seems to have faded 
into one of merely natural efficacy. On the other hand, 
something more than the light of common day still glorifies 
the rosemary. Among other things we are told that to 
carry a piece of this plant is to keep every evil spirit at a 
distance, and that rosemary has all the virtues of the stone 
called jet. It was because it was obnoxious to evil spirits 
that it was used at funerals. But it was not only used at 

^ xxix. Sacred Books ^ 180; cf. 395. 

- Meddygon Myddfai^ 269. Concerning this work see my article on 
"Old Welsh Folk-Medicine" in ix. Y Cy7nmrodor^ 227. Both mss. 
comprised in the book badly want careful reprinting and proper editing. 


funerals. There is a story of a widower who wished to be 
married again on the day of his former wife's funeral, 
because the rosemary employed at the funeral could be 
used for the wedding also. For its use at weddings there 
was an additional reason, which is given in the Welsh 
manuscript ; to wit, one of its remarkable powers was that 
"it was sovran against barrenness."^ Hindu w^omen eat 
little balls of rice with intent to obtain children. A woman 
who wishes for a child, especially a son, observes the fourth 
lunar day of every dark fortnight as a fast, and breaks her 
fast only after seeing the moon, generally before nine or ten 
o'clock in the evening. A dish of twenty-one balls of rice 
having been prepared, in one of which is put some salt, it 
is then placed before her ; and if she first put her hand on 
the ball containing salt, she will be blessed with a son. In 
this case no more is eaten ; otherwise she goes on until she 
takes the salted ball.^ At the festival of Rahu, the tribal 
god of the Dosadhs of Behar and Chota Nagpur, the priest 
distributes to the crowd tulsi-leaves which heal diseases else 
incurable, and flowers which have the virtue of causing 
barren women to conceive ; ^ but whether they are to be 
eaten or only smelt does not appear. The same omission 
occurs in a report by Mr. Leland that a Tuscan woman 
who desires offspring goes to a priest, gets a blessed apple 

1 Ibid.^ 262, 263 ; Friend, 115, 124, 581. Rosemary with grains of 
mastic was given by physicians in the seventeenth century to cure 
barrenness. Ploss, i. Weib, 434. A Gipsy charm quoted by Leland 
from Dr. von Wlislocki prescribed oats to be given to a mare out of an 
apron or gourd, with an incantation expressly bidding her "Eat, fill 
thy belly with young ! " Gip. Sore, 84. 

2 W. A. Clouston, in Burton, iii. StippL Nights, 576, quoting Indian 
N. and Q. 

3 i. Risley, 256. 


and pronounces over it an invocation to Saint Anna.^ 
Presumably she then eats it. At all events, in Hungary 
a Gipsy woman in the like circumstances eats at waxing 
moon grass from the grave of a pregnant woman. ^ Among 
the Southern Slavs the woman goes to a pregnant woman's 
grave, calls upon her by name, bites some of the grass off 
the grave, calls upon her again, conjuring her to grant her 
a child, and then, taking some earth from the grave, binds 
it in her girdle.^ In the Spreewald no Wendish woman 
dares to eat of two plums grown together on one stalk, or 
she will bear twins.^ About Mentone it is believed that a 
woman who finds a double fruit will have twins.'' The 
aboriginal inhabitants of Paraguay supposed that a woman 
who ate a double ear of maize would give birth to twins. ^ 
In Saxony, Mecklenburg and Voigtland it would appear 
that only pregnant women are forbidden to eat double 
fruit ; among the Tangalas the prohibition is extended to 
the husband ; in all cases for the same reason. '' These 
taboos are inexplicable save on the supposition that the 
fruit causes pregnancy. 

* Leland, Gip. Sore, loi. 

^ Ploss, i, Weib, 439, citing von Wlislocki. 

^ Ibid., citing Krauss. "* Von Schulenbmg, 232. 

^ J. B. Andrews, in ix. Rev. Trad. Pop., iii. 

^ Featherman, Chiapo-Mar., 444. 

' Ploss, i. Kii7d, 30, 32 ; H. Ling Roth, in xxn.JotC7-n. Anthr. Inst.^ 
209. In the island of Aurora a woman sometimes takes it into her 
head " that the origin, or beginning, of one of her children is a cocoa- 
nut, or bread-fruit, or something of that kind : " and this gives rise to a 
prohibition of the object for food, just as in the case of a totem. Rev. 
Dr. Codrington, in win. Journ. Anthr. Inst., 310; ii. Rep. Aiistr. 
Ass., 612. I hardly know how to account for this notion except by 
the suggestion that such a woman may have eaten the fruit in question 
about the time her pregnancy commenced, and thence have been led to 


It would seem like a relic of the same thought that in 
Swabia a woman who is " in an interesting condition " for the 
first time should eat of a tree which bears for the first time ; 
then both of them will become very fruitful. To this there 
is one exception : if an apple be grafted on a whitethorn, 
and some of the fruit be given to a pregnant woman to eat, 
she cannot bear.^ In contrast to this is a Bosnian custom 
in which the childless woman seeks for a plant called 
apijun^ cuts its roots small and steeps them in foam she 
has caught from a millwheel, afterwards drinking of the 
liquid. She then winds her wedding-girdle round a newly 
grafted fruit-tree, when, if the graft prosper, she also will 
bear. Another curious magical custom in Bosnia, still 
more instructive, is employed when a woman has been 
married for upwards of eleven years without having issue. 
A lady friend who is so fortunate as to be in that state in 
which " women wish to be who love their lords " must 
endeavour to find a stone lying in a pear-tree, as sometimes 
happens when it is thrown at the ripening fruit and caught 
by one of the branches. She must then shake the tree 
until the stone fall. This she must catch in her hands ere 
it reach the ground, carry it in the left skirt of her dress to 
the brook, put it into a pitcher, fill the pitcher from the 
brook so far as to cover the stone, and carry it home. 

believe that the pregnancy was in some way due to it. Dr. Codrington, 
however, upon inquiry, informs me that he never heard of any belief 
of the kind. It is perhaps worth noting as a coincidence, if nothing 
more, that on Lepers' Island the two intermarrying divisions are called 
branches of fruit, "as if," says Dr. Codrington, "all the members 
hang on the same stalk." Codrington, Melanesians, 26. 

^ Meier, Sageiz, 476, 474. It is a saying at Pforzheim : To make 
a nut-tree bear, let a pregnant woman pick the first nuts. Grimm, 
TeuL Myth., 1802. 


Next, she gathers dewy grass (it is not stated what she does 
with it), and speaks into the pitcher and into the water 
the conjuring formula : " So-and-so shall conceive." After 
that, she brings the pitcher with the water to the barren 
woman to drink, and, winding the wedding-garment (it 
does not appear what portion of the dress is meant) of the 
latter about her own body, wears it for three months, or 
longer, until the woman for whom the ceremony is per- 
formed shall feel that her desire has been accomplished. 
The friend, however, must neither eat anything in the 
patient's house, nor according to one account speak during 
the ceremony.! Now I am not prepared to explain every 
detail of this performance, though I may revert to some of 
the items hereafter. The important matter for the moment 
is the meaning of the stone shaken down from the tree. 
This can hardly be understood to represent anything but a 
pear j and inasmuch as the patient cannot eat the stone, 
its virtues as fruit are transmitted to the water which is 
given her to drink, the intention being made clear by the 
utterance of the command, " So-and-so shall conceive." 

In China and Japan a medicine called Kay-Uc-sing^ made 
from the leaves of a tree belonging to the class Tern- 
stromacese, is given at full moon with cabalistic formulae. 
In the Fiji Islands the woman bathes in a stream, and then 
both husband and wife take a drink made with the grated 
root of a kind of bread-fruit tree and the nut of a sort of 
turmeric, immediately before congress. Siberian brides 
before the marriage-night eat the cooked fruit of the Iris 
Sibirica. Asparagus seeds and young hop-buds arc given 

1 Dr. Krauss, in iii. A771 Urqiiell, 276. In Silesia stones arc put on 
the trees on Christmas Eve to make them bear the more. Grimm 
Tent. Myth., 1825. 


as salad to women in Styria against barrenness. The Czech 
women of Bohemia drink an infusion of juniper to obtain 
children ; and coffee enjoys a high reputation in Franconia. 
Serb women get a woman already pregnant to put yeast into 
their girdles ; they sleep with it over night, and eat it in the 
morning at breakfast.^ 

Before passing from the eating of fruit and vegetables, let 
me point out that the mandrakes, or love-apples, for which 
Rachel bargained with Leah, were believed to be possessed 
of power to put an end to barrenness ; and this, as it 
appears by the record in Genesis, quite independently of 
sexual intercourse, for Rachel gave up her husband to 
her sister in exchange for them. Whether it be from the 
narcotic properties of the fruit, or from the likeness of the 
root to the human form, or both, the mandrake has been 
during all history credited with supernatural powers. In 
particular, it has been held potent as a cause of pregnancy. 
Henry Maundrell, travelling in Palestine in the spring of 
i6^y — barely two centuries ago— was informed that it was 
then customary for women who wanted children to lay 
mandrakes under the bed.- The recipe current during the 
Middle Ages for gathering mandrakes was very much like 
that still practised by Danubian Gipsies to obtain a kind of 
orchid which they call boy-root. The root is half laid bare 
with a knife never before used, and a black dog is tied by 
the tail to it. A piece of ass-flesh is then offered to the 

1 Ploss, i. Weib, 431, 432, 434, 445, citing various authorities. 
Compare Queen Isolte's lily, referred to ante, page 91. What is the 
meaning of the attribution, widely spread in Europe, of children to 
trees or vegetables ? See, for examples, iv. Am Urqtiell, 224 et seqq. ; 
Zingerle, Sagen, no; Finamore, Trad. Pop. Abr., 56. In England 
children are said to come out of the parsley-bed. 

- Gen. XXX. 14. Early Trav., 434. 


animal ; and when he springs after it he pulls out the plant. 
The representation of a linga is carved out of the root, 
wrapped in a piece of hart's leather, and worn on the naked 
left arm to promote conception.^ The Persians are said 
still to use the mandrake as an amulet for the same purpose, 
and to call it man's root or love-root.^ 

Animal substances of various kinds have been taken with 
the like intent. An insect in India, called pillai-puchchi, 
or son-insect, is swallowed in large numbers by women in 
the hope of bearing sons.^ They thus do voluntarily what 
the mothers of Conchobar and Cuchulainn are reported to 
have done against their wills. English gallants at one time 
were said to swallow loaches in wine to become prolific. 
Farquhar in The Cojistant Couple^ written at the end of the 
seventeenth century, puts into the mouth of one of his char- 
acters the words : " I have toasted your ladyship fifteen 
bumpers successively, and swallowed Cupids like loaches in 
every glass. "^ On every Christmas Eve unfruitful wives 
among the Transylvanian Saxons eat fish and throw the bones 
into flowing water, in the hope of bringing children into the 
world.'' Hungarian Gipsy-women gather the floating threads 
of cobweb from the fields in autumn, and in the waxing of 
the moon they with their husbands eat them, murmuring an 
incantation to the Keshalyi, or Fate, whose sorrow at this 
season for her lost mortal husband causes her to tear out 
her hair. These threads are believed to be the Keshalyi's 
hair ; and the incantation attributes the hoped-for child to 

1 Von Wlislocki, Volksgl. Zig., 90. 

2 Ploss, i. Weil), 439. 

3 Clouston, in Burton, iii. Stippl. Nights, 576, citing Pandit Natesa 
Sastri in Indian N. and Q. 

* Southey, iii. Commonplace Bk., 20, 75. 

^ Von Wlislocki, Volksgl. Siebenb. Sachs, y 54. 


them, and invites the Fate to the baptism.^ In Kamtchatka, 
women outdo the Hungarian Gipsies. They eat the spiders 
themselves to obtain children; and a woman who, on 
bearing, desires to become pregnant soon again, eats her 
infant's navel-string. Among the Southern Slavs the wife 
places a wooden bowl full of water beneath a beam of the 
roof where it is worm-eaten and the worm-dust falls. Her 
husband strikes the beam with something heavy, so as to 
shake the dust out of the worm-holes ; and she drinks the 
water containing the dust that falls. Many a woman seeks 
in knots of hazelwood for a worm, and eats it when found. 
Masur women in the province of West Prussia make use of 
the water which drips from a stallion's mouth after he has 
drunk. Worse is said to be done in Algiers. There, when a 
woman has already had a child, but has ceased for a long 
period to conceive, she must drink sheep's urine, or water 
wherein wax from a donkey's ear has been macerated.^ The 
ancient Prussian bride and bridegroom, having been put 
to bed, but before consummating the marriage, were served 
with a dish of buck's, bull's, or bear's testicles,^ probably 
with a view to begetting a boy. The corresponding portion 
of a hare was prescribed in wine by our Anglo-Saxon fore- 
fathers to the woman who desired a son. " In order that 
a woman may kindle a male child," a hare's belly dried 
and sliced and rubbed with a drink is also recommended 
in the leechbook to be taken by both husband and wife. 
If the wife alone drank it, she would produce an herma- 

1 Von Wlislocki, Volksgl. Zi'g., 13. Compare the story given in 
the last chapter, ante^ p. 124. 

- Krauss, Sitie and Branch, 531 ; Ploss, i. IVeih, 432, 440, 441, 443, 
431, citing various authorities. 

^ Schroder, 171, citing Hartknoch ; Ploss, i. IVeib, 445. 


phroditc. The hare's magical reputation is well known, 
nor are the foregoing the only prescriptions in the same 
work from its flesh. Four drachms of female hare's rennet 
to the woman, and the like quantity of male hare's to the 
man, in wine, were to be given ; and, after directing that 
the wife should be dieted on mushrooms and forego her 
bath, we are told : " Wonderfully she will be pregnant." 1 
We shall not be incHned to dispute the wonder. In 
Fezzan a woman's fruitfulness is said to be increased by 
the plentiful enjoyment of the dried intestines of a young 
hare which has never been suckled. The flesh of the 
kangaroo, like the hare a swift animal, is held by the 
Australian aborigines to cause fertihty.- A fox's genital 
organs dried and rubbed to powder are given to women in 
the Land beyond the Forest against barrenness.^ 

Eggs are naturally supposed to ensure pregnancy. A 
Gipsy husband will sometimes take an egg and blow the 
contents into his wife's mouth, she swallowing them;* or 
in Transylvania she will give him at full moon the egg of 
a black hen to eat by himself^ On the island of Keisar in 
the East Indies, an infertile woman takes a hen's first egg 
to an old man with a reputation for knowledge, and asks 
him for help. He lays the egg on a nunu-leaf, and with it 
presses her breast, muttering blessings the while. Then he 
cooks the egg in a koli-leaf, takes a bit of it, lays it again 
on the nunu-leaf, and gives it to the woman to eat. After 

^ Sextus Placitus, i. Sax. Leechd., 345. 

- Ploss, i. Weib, 431, 432, citing Nachtigall and Junk. 

^ Von Wlislocki, Volhsgl. Siehenb. Sachs. ^ 103. In Transylvania 
hare's flesh, especially the testicles, is also esteemed a specific against 
impotence and childlessness. Ibid.y 169. 

^ Leland, Gip. Sore, loi. 

^ Von Wlislocki, Volksdicht., 314. 


that, he presses the leaf on her nose and breasts, and 
hghtly rubs it upon her shoulders, passing it always down- 
wards, wraps another bit of the egg in the nunu-leaf, and 
causes it to be preserved in the branches of one of the 
highest trees in the neighbourhood of her dwelling.^ On 
the other hand, in Galicia the last egg laid by a hen is 
credited with having two yolks. It is said to be no bigger 
than a pigeon's Q.g%, A barren woman who swallows its 
contents will henceforth bear ; or it is given to a cow or 
other animal with a similar object.'^ 

The Grihya-Sutra of Gobhila gives minute directions for 
the sacrifice offered by the ancient Aryans of India. The 
object of the Anvashtakya ceremony was the propitiation 
of the ancestral spirits, to whom three Pindas, or lumps of 
food, consisting of rice and cow-beef mixed with a certain 
juice, are offered. After the offering, if the sacrificer's wife 
wish for a son, she is to eat the middle Pinda, dedicated 
among the manes especially to her husband's grandfather, 
uttering at the same time the verse from the Mantra-Brdh- 
7uana : " Give fruit to the womb, O Fathers ! " ^ No doubt 
the virtue of this prescription consists in the food's having 
been part of the sacrificial offering. But the cow is so 
intimately connected with the well-being of all tribes in the 
Old World who have passed beyond the lower stages of 
savagery, and has consequently become so well-recognised 
a symbol of fecundity, that we need not be surprised to 
find it used in charms to produce offspring. An Old 
English recipe for a woman who miscarries is to let her 
take milk of a one-coloured cow in her hand and sup it up 

1 Ploss, i. Weib, 442. 

- J. Spinner of Lemberg, in iv. Am Urquell^ 125. 

2 XXX. Sacred Bks,, no. 


into her mouth, and then go to running water and spit out 
the milk therein. Next, she must ladle up with the same 
hand a mouthful of the water and swallow it down, uttering 
certain words. Lastly, she must, without looking about 
her either in her going or coming, return, but not into the 
same house whence she came out, and there taste of meat.^ 
Among the Kaffirs an amulet to remove the reproach from 
a childless woman is made by the medicine-man of the 
clan from the tail-hairs of a heifer. The heifer must be 
given to the husband by a kinsman for the purpose ; and 
the charm, when made, is hung round the woman's neck.^ 
In Belgium, women desirous of offspring are advised to 
drink a mixture of the milk of the goat, ass, and sheep. '^ 

Of mineral substances Russian women take saltpetre; 
and in Styria a woman will grate her wedding-ring and 
swallow the filings.* It was a classical superstition that 
mice were impregnated by tasting salt.^ 

The drinking of water under certain conditions has been 
held to be productive of children. In the first instance I 
am about to mention, however, reliance is not placed 
wholly on the draught. Beside the Groesbeeck spring at 
Spa in the Ardennes is a footprint of Saint Remaclc. Barren 
women pay a nine days' devotional visit to the shrine of 
the saint at Spa, and drink every morning a glass of the 
Groesbeeck water. While drinking, one foot must be 
placed in the holy footprint.^ Maidens, we know, in more 
than one of the tales, have proved the efficacy of divine 
footprints. In other cases it is unmistakably the draught 

^ iii. Sax. Leec/id., 69. 2 Theal, 201. 

3 Eug. Polain, in ii. Bull de F.L., 82. 

^ Ploss, i. Weib, 434, 443. ^ Pliny, Nat. Hist., x. 85. 

6 Wolf, Niederl. Sag,, 227 ; ii. Bull dc F.L., 82. 


which has the virtue. In Thuringia and Transylvania, 
women who wished to be healed of unfruitfulness drank 
consecrated water from the baptismal font.^ A Transyl- 
vanian Gipsy woman is said to drink water wherein her 
husband has cast hot coals, or, better still, has spit, saying 
as she does so : " Where I am flame be thou the coals ! 
Where I am rain be thou the water ! " ^ A South Slavonic 
woman holds a wooden bowl of water near the fire on the 
hearth. Her husband then strikes two firebrands together 
until the sparks fly. Some of them fall into the bowl, and 
she then drinks the water.^ The Tusayan, one of the 
pueblo tribes of North America, have a legend of one of 
their women who, being pregnant, was left behind on the 
Little Colorado in their wanderings. Beneath her dwelling 
is a spring, and any sterile woman who drinks of it will 
bear children.* For Arab women the third chapter of the 
Koran (which, among other things, relates the birth of the 
Virgin Mary) is written out in its whole interminable length 
with saffron in a copper basin; boiling water is poured 
upon the writing ; and the woman in need drinks a part of 
the water thus consecrated, and washes her face, breast and 
womb with the remainder.^ At Bombay a barren woman 
would cut off the end of the robe of a woman who has 
borne at least one child, when hung up to dry ; or would 
steal a new-born infant's shirt, steep one end of it in water, 
drink the water and destroy the shirt. The child to which 

1 ii. Witzschel, 244; Von Wlislocki, Volksgl. Siebettb. Sachs., 152. 

2 Ploss, i. IVeib, 443, citing von Wlislocki in general terms. The 
statement is repeated (as usual without giving his authority) by Leland, 
Gip. Sore, 10 1. ^ Krauss, Sitte tind Branch, 531. 

* Victor Mindeleff, in viii. Rep. Bur. Ethn., 32. 
^ Ploss, i. Weib, 435, citing Sandreczki. 


the clothing belonged would then die and be born again 
from the womb of the woman performing this ceremony.^ 
Other women in India wash the loin-cloth of a sanyasi, or 
devotee, and drink the water. ^ We can only surmise that 
this filthy practice is followed in the hope of obtaining 
the benefit experienced by the Princess Chand Rawati in 
the Sanskrit romance, or the nymph Adrika in the Mahd- 
bhdrata^ cited above. 

Be this how it may, there is a group of practices to 
which reference must be made, and which almost match 
the foregoing in nastiness. Unfortunately the dislike of 
nastiness is an extremely civilised feeling; and when we 
read of these things we must remember that we ourselves 
are not very far removed from a date when powder of 
mummy was one of the least objectionable remedies in our 
forefathers' pharmacopoeia. We have already found that a 
Gipsy woman will drink the water wherein her husband has 
spit. What is the meaning of the expression : " He is the 
very spit of his father ! " current not only in England, but 
also, according to the learned Liebrecht, in France, Italy, 
and Portugal, and alluded to by Voltaire and La Fontaine, 
if it point not back to a similar, perhaps a more repulsive, 
ceremony formerly practised by the folk all over western 
Europe ? Other Gipsy customs, if Gipsy women are not 
belied, are quite as bad. A barren woman who succeeds 
in touching a snake caught in Easter- or Whitsun- week 
will become fruitful if she spit thrice on it and sprinkle 
it with her menstruation-blood, repeating the following 

1 Tuchmann, in vi. Mehisine, 109, quoting Rehatsek, Journ. 
Anthrop. Soc. Bo7nbay. 

' Clouston, in Burton, iii. Suppl. Nights, 576 note, quoting Pandit 
Natesa Sastri, Indian N. and Q. 



incantation : "Grow thick, thou snake ! that I thereby may 
get a child. I am lean as thou art now, therefore rest not. 
Snake, snake, glide hence, and if I become pregnant I 
will give thee a crest, an old one, that thy tooth may 
thereby receive much poison ! " ^ Among the Gipsies of 
Roumania and southern Hungary a sterile woman scratches 
her husband's left hand between finger and thumb ; and he 
returns the compliment. The blood of both is received 
in a new vessel, and buried under a tree for nine days. It 
is then taken up and ass' milk poured into it ; and husband 
and wife drink the mixture before going to bed, saying an 
incantation which reminds us of the Zulu story of the 
blood in the pot ; for its earlier lines run thus : " In the 
dawn three Fates will come. The first seeks our blood ; 
the second finds our blood; the third makes a child 
thereout." 2 A Polish woman, to get children, procures a 
small jar of the blood of another woman at her first child- 
bearing, and drinks it mixed with brandy.^ I mentioned 
just now the practice of the Kamtchatkan women. A 
Magyar believes he promotes conception by his wife if he 
mix with his blood white of egg and the white spots in the 
yolk of a hen's egg, fill a dead man's bone with the mixture, 
and bury it where he is accustomed to make water.* Nay, 
shavings of a dead man's bone taken in drink will have the 
same effect ; or if taken by a man, they will enchance his 

^ Von Wlislocki, Volksgl. Zig., 66. Wherever this work is cited, it 
must be understood, unless otherwise expressed, to deal with the 
Gipsies of the Danubian countries, where alone, the author says, they 
are unsophisticated. 

2 Von Wlislocki, in iii. Am Urquell, 7. 

^ B. W. Schiffer, in iii. Am Urquell, 147. 

^ A. F. Dorfler, in iii. Am Urquell, 269. 


potency.^ It was, as we have seen, a dead man's bone 
which, according to the Mexican saga, when sprinkled with 
blood, produced the father and mother of the present race 
of mankind. 

Portions of corpses are, in fact, as valuable for unfruitful 
women as the blood and secretions of living persons, at 
least in the opinion of the Danubian Gipsies. These 
people are said to make, for protection from witchcraft, 
litde figures of men and brutes out of a sort of dough of 
grafting wax taken from the trees in a graveyard, mixed 
with the pow^dered hair and nails of a dead child or maiden, 
and with ashes left after burning the clothes of one who 
has died. The figures are dried in the sun, and, when 
required for use, ground into powder. Taken in millet- 
pap in the increase of the moon this powder accelerates 
conception. 2 Mr. Lane records disgusting practices on 
the part of barren women at Cairo. Near the place of 
execution there is a table of stone where the body of 
every person who is, in accordance with the usual mode of 
punishment, beheaded is washed before burial. By the 
table is a trough to receive the water. This trough is 
never emptied; and its contents are tainted with blood, 
and fetid. A woman who desires issue silently passes 
under the stone table with the left foot foremost, and then 
over it. After repeating this process seven times, she 
washes her face in the trough, and, giving a trifling sum of 
money to the old man and his wife who keep the place, 

1 Von Wlislocki, Volksleb. Mag., 77. According to the same author, 
the afterbirth of a boy or girl placed under the bed will ensure the 
procreation of a child of the same sex ; but the husband must be 
careful which side he gets into bed— on the right for a boy, on the left 
for a girl. Ibid.^ 80. 

' Von Wlislocki, Volksgl. Zig., 103. 


goes silently away. Others, with the like intent, step over 
the decapitated body seven times, also without speaking ; 
and others again dip in the blood a piece of cotton-wool, 
of which they afterwards make use in a manner which 
Mr. Lane declines to mention.^ The stories I have quoted, 
" wherein a skull, reduced to powder and given to a maiden, 
renders her pregnant, also come from Danubian lands and 
from the Mohammedan East. The incident of the skull is 
less horrible than these practices ; but what other distinction 
can be found ? 

We may illustrate the custom of stepping over the dead 

body, and at the same time show that in both hemispheres 

the idea expressed in the stories just referred to is an active 

principle of conduct. First let me recall the superstition 

which leads a woman in Bombay to steal another's child ; 

for that is what the ceremony described a page or two 

back amounts to. In the same way Algonkin women who 

sought to become mothers flocked to the couches of those 

about to die, in hope that the vital principle, as it passed 

from the dying, would enter their bodies and fertiHse their 

sterile wombs.^ Among the Hurons in the seventeenth 

century babes who died under one or two months were not 

placed, like older persons, in sepulchres of bark raised on 

stakes, but buried in the road, in order that they might 

enter secretly into the wombs of passing women and be born 

again. The Jesuit father who reports this custom quaintly 

adds : ''I doubt that the good Nicodemus would have 

found much difficulty here, although he doubted only for 

old men : Quomodo potest homo ?iasd cum sit se?iex? " ^ So 

1 i. Lane, 393» 394- ' Brinton, Myths, 253. 

3 V. Rep. Bur. Ethn., Ill, translating Relations des Jesuites (1636). 
In the Banks' Islands are certain spirits called Nopitu. It is believed 


one of the prescriptions of our Anglo-Saxon forefathers 
directs a woman who has miscarried to go to the barrow of 
a deceased man and step thrice over it with certain words 
conjuring the effects of the miscarriage.^ We are now in a 
position to understand why a Gipsy woman eats grass from 
the grave of a pregnant woman. It is because she expects 
that the life of the unborn child will enter into her by means 
of the grass. Evidently the object sought by all these cere- 
monies connected with the departed is to transfer to the 
unproductive womb the life which has been snatched away. 
In the tales of parthenogenesis by means of the powdered 
skull the identity of the child with the dead man is openly 
declared ; and it is equally unmistakable in the Slavonic 
story of the girl who was given the hermit's heart to eat. I 
shall return to this subject in the next chapter. 

The blood would impart its power to the water it putri- 
fied, wherein the Cairene women washed. Washing in water 
endowed with supernatural power is not uncommon else- 
where. Transylvanian Saxon women not only drink of 
baptismal water : they also wash in it, preferably on Mid- 
summer Day.2 Among the Galician Jews unfruitful women 
when they bathe according to their ritual dip themselves 
nine times under water.^ Saint Verena, one of the illustri- 
ous obscure of mediaeval mythology, bathed in the Vere- 
nenbad at Baden in the Aargau, and thereby conferred on 
it such virtue that pregnant women or such as wish for 
children, if they bathe there, soon attain their desire.^ The 

that a woman sometimes hears one of them say: "Mother, I am 
coming to you," and feels it entering into her ; and it is afterwards 
born as an ordinary child. Codrington, 154. This does not appear to 
be a case of migration. ^ iii. Sax. Leechd.^ 66. 

- Von Wlislocki, Volksgl. Siebenb. Sachs., 75, 152. 

2 Schiffer, in iv. Am Urquell, 187. ■* Kohlrusch, 324. 


reference to pregnant women must no doubt be understood 
of those who wish to avoid miscarriage and to be safely 
delivered. German tales and popular saws used to speak — 
perchance they still do— of a Kinderbrunnen, or Children's 
Well, whence babies were fetched, as in England from the 
parsley bed. The Bride's Well, in Aberdeenshire, was at 
one time the resort of every bride in the neighbourhood on 
the evening before her marriage. Her maidens bathed her 
feet and the upper part of her body with water drawn from 
it ; and this bathing, we are told, " ensured a family." ^ The 
well into which Ptiran, that Panjabi Joseph, was thrown, 
is situate on the highroad between Sialkot and Kalowal. 
His residence in it sanctified it to such an extent that the 
women of those parts believe that if they bathe in it they 
will become fruitful. ^ Panjabi women sometimes adopt 
more questionable means. They wash naked in a boat in 
a field of sugar-canes, or under a mango-tree. Mangoes, it 
will be remembered, are favourite phallic fruits in Indian 
tales. Properly these women ought to burn seven houses. 
But this is cruelly forbidden by English law ; and they have 
to content themselves with burning secretly at murky mid- 
night on Sunday, and as far as possible at a cross-road, a 
small quantity of clay from seven dwellings. On this fire 
they heat the water wherewith to wash. Or, during the 
night of the feast of Divali— always a night in the moonless 
half of the month — the husband draws water at seven 
different wells in an earthen pot, and places in the water 
leaves plucked from seven trees. He brings the pot to his 
wife at a crossway where the roads meet roughly at right 
angles. She must sprinkle herself with the water unseen 
by anybody. The husband then strips and puts on new 
1 Rev. W. Gregor, in iii. Folklore, 68. ^ j. ^^^. Panj., 2. 


clothes. This is indeed a putting-off of the old man. Or else 
the woman perfectly nude covers a space in the middle of 
the crossway, and there lays leaves from the five royal trees, 
the fiais religiosa, ficus indica, acacia speciosa^ mango, and 
biitea frotidosa. On these she places a little figure of the 
god Rama, sits on the figure and washes her entire body 
with water in five vases drawn from five wells, four of which 
must be situated at the four points of the compass from the 
town or village, and the fifth to the north-east in the out- 
skirts. She pours the water from the vases into a receptacle 
whose bottom is pierced by a hole whence the contents 
may fall on her body. The ceremony must be accom- 
plished in absolute solitude, and all the utensils must be 
left on the spot.^ 

Among the ancient Greeks various streams and springs 
were deemed of virtue against barrenness. Dr. Ploss cites 
divers classical writers as recording the claims of the river 
Elatus in Arcadia, the Thespian spring on the island of 
Helicon, the spring near the temple of Aphrodite on 
Hymettos, and the warm springs of Sinuessa. Others might 
easily be found, if necessary, both ancient and modern. A 
curious rite is reported among the Serbs. A young, sterile 
married woman cuts a reed, fills it with wine, and sews it, 
together with an old knife and a cake, in a linen bag. 
Holding this bag under her left arm she wades in flowing 
water, while some one on the brink prays for her : " Fulfil 
my prayer, O God, O Mother of God," and so on through 
the whole gamut of sanctities. During this prayer the wader 
drops the bag in the stream, and, coming out, sets her feet 
in two braziers, out of which her husband must lift her and 
carry her home. Here we have unmistakably a prayer and 

^ vi. Melusine, ill, quoting Panjab N, and Q. , and Indian N. and Q. 


offerings of food and drink to the water, the latter remaining 
but little changed while the former puts on a Christian guise. 
A parallel case is that of the Burmal er Rabba spring at Sidi 
Mecidj near Constantine, in Algeria, frequented both by- 
Jewesses and Moors for the removal of infecundity. Each 
of these women slays a black hen before the door of the 
grotto, offers inside a wax taper and a honey-cake, takes a 
bath and goes away assured of the speedy accomplishment 
of her wishes. Inasmuch as sacrifices are foreign to Islam, 
it is obvious that the ceremony is a survival of an older cult. 
Curiously enough, the Dyaks of Borneo, who are still 
frankly heathen, offer domestic fowls to the water-goddess 
against unfruitfulness. The afBicted person (sometimes it 
is a man) gives a big feast called Cararamin, and goes to 
the haunt of the Jata, or goddess, in question in a boat 
beautifully adorned, taking a domestic and other fowls with 
gilded beaks as offerings. They are thrown living into the 
water, or their heads are merely cut off and offered, while 
the body is consumed by the votary. In many instances, 
we are told, carved wooden figures of birds are made use of 
instead of the real article. In the islands of Watabela, 
Aaru and the Sula Archipelago, barren women and their 
husbands go to the ancestral graves, or, if Moslems, on 
Friday to a certain sacred tomb, to pray together with some 
old women. They bring offerings which include a goat 
or pig and water. The husband prays for a medicine, and 
promises, if a child be given him, to offer the goat (or pig, 
if a heathen), or to give it to the people to eat. It is 
expected that after this the medicine will be prescribed to 
both husband and wife in dreams. They both wash with 
the water they have brought, which is consecrated by 
standing for a while on the grave, and eat together some of 


the food, leaving the rest on the grave. They take the 
goat, or pig, back home, to be sacrificed in accordance with 
the husband's vow, only if the wife become pregnant. The 
Nature-goddess of the Yorubas on the west coast of Africa 
is represented as a pregnant female ; and the water that is 
consecrated by being kept in her temple is highly esteemed 
for infertility and difficult labours.^ And in general we 
may refer not only to the numerous wells and springs that 
even yet in Europe have a similar reputation, but also to 
the rites practised in connection with water by a bride on 
being brought to her new home. It would be too great a 
wandering from our present subject to discuss these rites in 
detail. But one at least of the objects they have in view 
is the production of offspring. I add a few references at 
the foot of the page for those who wish to pursue the 
inquiry.2 Meantime it will be seen that the practices 
passed in review throughout this and the preceding para- 
graph bear a remarkable analogy to the stories wherein we 
are presented with the Supernatural Birth as caused by 
bathing ; and it will not be forgotten that the mother of the 
Erse hero Aedh Slaine does not succeed in bearing a human 
child until she has washed in the consecrated water : drink- 
ing of it alone was insufficient. Having regard to the stories 

1 Ploss, i. Weib, 436, 437, 438, 439, referring to various authorities. 
The Kich Negresses about Adael, west of the White Nile, in Equatorial 
Africa, however, think it necessary to wash in liquids much less inno- 
cent than water, unless they want to be sterile. Kara Kirghiz women 
spend a night beside a holy well. v. Radloff, 2. The ceremonies they 
practise are not mentioned. 

2 Jevons, Plutarch's Roman Questions, ci. ; iii. V Anthropologic, 548, 
<^t^%'. Congress {\Z^\) Report, Z\'^\ Kolbe, 163 ; Rodd, 94 ; Dalton, 

passim ; Ploss, i. Weib, 445, citing BiJder; Winternitz, Altind. Hochz.^ 
47, loi. 


of Danae and the Mexican goddess who was fructified by 
the rain, it is interesting too to note that Hottentot maidens 
must run about naked in the first thunderstorm after 
the festival when their maturity is celebrated. The rain, 
pouring down over the whole body, has the virtue of 
making fruitful the girl who receives it and rendering her 
capable of having a large offspring.^ It is even possible 
that a similar superstition was once known in Germany. A 
saying current in many parts points in this direction, namely, 
that when it rains on St. John's day the nuts will be wormy 
and many girls pregnant - — unless, as a Slav practice already 
cited may suggest, the pregnancy be the result of their eating 
the wormy nuts. 

A few other usages must be referred to before we leave 
the subject. Several of the stories I have cited attribute 
pregnancy to the rays of the sun. The ancient Parsees, as 
we might have expected, believed that the beams of the 
rising sun were the most effective means for giving fruit- 
fulness to the newly wedded ; and even to-day, in Persia 
and among the Tartars in Central Asia, the morning after 
the marriage has been consummated the pair are brought 
out to be greeted by the rising sun.^ At old Hindu 
marriages the bride was made to look towards the sun, or 
in some other way exposed to its rays. This was expressly 
called the Impregnation-rite.* Among the Chacos, an abori- 
ginal tribe of the southern part of South America, the bride 

1 Hahn, Tsuni-\\goat)i, 87. 

2 Ploss, i. Weib, 443, citing Wuttke. In Hainaut a profusion of 
fruit on the nut-trees prognosticates many bastards during the year. 
Harou, 28. 

3 Ploss, i. Weib, 446. 

^ Frazer, ii. Golden Bough, 238, note, quoting Monier-Williams, 
Religious Life and Thought in India. 


and bridegroom sleep the first night on a skin with their 
heads towards the west ; for, we are told, the marriage is 
not considered as ratified until the rising sun shines on 
their feet the succeeding morning. ^ Whether or not it is 
really their feet on which the sun is expected to shine, the 
ratification of the marriage by the sun must be intended to 
obtain the blessing of fertility. 

It was customary at Rome to offer goats at the Lupercal ; 
and two youths underwent the pretence of a human offering, 
doubtless once anything but a sham. A sacrificial meal 
followed. The Luperci, then, girt with skins of some of 
the slain animals, cut other skins into strips, and armed 
with the strips ran up and down the Via Sacra, across the 
Forum and through the city, striking all whom they met. 
Women who desired to be made fruitful used, it is said, to 
place themselves naked in the way and receive the blows 
upon their palms.- Dr. Ploss compares with this the 
procedure in Voigtland and other parts of Germany at the 
Easter festival, when the young fellows chase the girls out 
of their beds with green twigs.^ Similar is the object of 
the custom observed from India to the Atlantic Ocean of 
throwing grain and seeds of one sort or another over a 
bride, and apparently of the custom of flinging old shoes. 
The wandering Gipsies of Transylvania are said to throw 
old shoes and boots on a newly married pair when they 
enter their tent, expressly to enchance the fertiHty of the 
union. In Germany, pieces of cake are thrust against the 
bride's body.^ About Chemnitz a table-cloth seems to 
acquire prolific virtue by serving at a first christening 

1 T. J. Hutchinson, in iii. Trans. EthnoL Soc, N.S., 327. 

- i. Preller, 389 ; Ovid, Fasti., ii. 425. ^ Tloss, i. Weih^ 435. 

^ Ploss, i. Weib, 445 ; Grimm, Teut. Myth.^ 1794. 


dinner; and it is sometimes cast over a barren wife.^ The 
Asturian ballad already cited in an earlier chapter ascribes 
to the borage the power to affect any woman treading on it 
as it affected the unfortunate princess Alexandra.- Rolling 
beneath a solitary apple-tree seems an approved method of 
obtaining pregnancy among the Kara Kirghiz women.^ 

Amulets play a great part in procuring offspring. I have 
only space for a few examples. A porcupine's foot is a 
favourite talisman among the Moorish women of Marocco. 
The Northern Basuto in the Transvaal lay the fault of 
childlessness on the husband. He has done to death by 
witchcraft one of his kin, or committed some other wrong 
towards the dead man, who is therefore angry. After 
consulting a wizard, and ascertaining to whom is to be 
ascribed the evil, he goes to the grave, acknowledges his 
fault, prays to the dead for forgiveness, and takes back 
from the tomb a stone, a twig, or some other object, which 
he carries about, or deposits in his courtyard, as a fetich or 
a charm. If he duly honour it, it will restore the good 
understanding between the deceased and himself, and give 
him the benefit he desires. An Otchi Negress will take a 
fetich conditionally on its giving her children. If a child 
be born, it is a fetich-child and is considered to belong 
to the fetich, just as in many of the tales the child is given 
by an ogre upon the stipulation that it shall belong to 
the ogre, and be fetched away, either when he pleases, 
or at a fixed period. The women of Mecca commonly 

1 Grimm, Teut. Myth., 1795. 
- De Charencey, Le Fits, 26. 

2 V. Radloff, 2. Among the Southern Slavs the bride is unveiled 
beneath an apple-tree and the veil is sometimes hung on the tree. 
Krauss, Sitte tind Branch, 450. 


wear a magical girdle to yield them fertility. In Persia, 
as we have seen, the mandrake is worn as an amulet. ^ 
On the Banks' Islands, women take certain stones to bed 
with them for the same purpose.^ 

In the interior of western Africa, over the border of 
Angola, on the way from Malange, barren Negresses have 
been found wearing two little carved ivory figures repre- 
senting the two sexes in a string round the body.'' The 
phalloi worn by Italian women are familiar to every 
student of folklore ; and the images worn by Danubian 
Gipsies have already been mentioned. The worship of 
the linga is a favourite one with Hindu women. The 
representation is sometimes carved and painted red, at 
other times a mere rough upright stone. Such idols are to 
be seen everywhere in India ; and their pious worshippers 
may often be observed decking them with flowers, red 
cloth or gilt paper, like the Madonna in Roman Catholic 
churches. Siva himself, the third in the modern Hindu 
Trimurti, is represented under this form ; and under this 
form — softened down by Southey in his finest poem from 
the grotesque obscenity of the original story — he appeared 


" Brahma and Vishnu wild with rage contended, 
And Siva in his might their dread contention ended."' 

A cannon, old and useless and neglected, belonging to the 
Dutch Government, lay in a field at Batavia, on the island 
of Java. It was taken by the native women for a linga. 
Dressed in their best, and adorned with flowers, they used 
to worship this piece of senseless iron, presented it with 

^ Ploss, i. Weib, 437, 439. For other amulets, see ibid., 441 ; 
Klunzinger, 399. 

- Codrington, 184. ' Ploss, i. Weib, 439. 


offerings of rice and fruits, miniature sunshades, and coppers, 
and completed the performance by sitting astride upon it 
as a certain method of winning children. At length an order 
arrived from the Government to remove it as lumber ; and 
removed it was, to the great dismay of the priests, who had 
pocketed the coppers and had manufactured and sold the 
sunshades — probably also to the dismay of the ladies who 
depended upon its miraculous power — but at all events, it 
is satisfactory to know, without injuriously affecting the 
increase of the population.^ At Roman weddings one of 
the ceremonies was the culminating rite so dear to these 
Batavian women ; and its object was that the bride might 
conceive.^ At Athens there is a rock near the Callirrhoe, 
whereon women who wish to be made fruitful rub them- 
selves, calling on the Moirai to be gracious to them. And 
Bernhard Schmidt, writing on the subject, recalls that not 
far from that very spot the heavenly Aphrodite was honoured 
in ancient times as the eldest of the Fates.^ At the foot 
of another hill is a seat cut in the rock on the banks of a 
stream. There the Athenian women were wont to sit and 
let themselves slip on the back into the brook, calling on 
Apollo for an easy delivery. The stone is black and 
polished with the constant repetition of these invocations ; 
for still on a clear moonlit night young women steal 
silently to the spot to indulge in the same exercise, though 
we may presume their prayers are nominally addressed to 
some other divinity.'* Near Verdun in Luxemburg, Saint 

^ A. H. Kiehl, in \\. Jouni. Anthr. Inst.^ 359. 
" Augustine, Civ. Dei, vi. 9 ; Ploss, i. Weib, 435, quoting Thomas 

3 Ploss, i. Weib, 436. 

* Berenger-Feraud, 201, quoting Yemenier. 



Lucia's arm-chair is also to be seen in the hving rock. 
There childless women sit and pray, afterwards awaiting 
with confidence the fulfilment of their petitions. A curious 
rite used until the Reformation to be performed at the 
shrine of Saint Edmund at Bury St. Edmund's. A white 
bull was kept on the fields of the manor of Habyrdon, and 
never yoked to the plough nor baited at the stake. When 
a married woman wished for offspring he was " led in pro- 
cession through the principal streets of the town to the 
principal gate of the monastery, attended by all the monks 
singing, and a shouting crowd ; the woman walking by him 
and stroking his milk-white sides and pendent dewlaps. 
The bull being then dismissed, the woman entered the 
church, and paid her vows at the altar of Saint Edmund, 
kissing the stone, and entreating with tears the blessing of 
a child." 1 In the Pyrenees near Bourg d'Oueil is a stone 
figure of a man about five feet in height, on which 
barren women rub themselves, embracing and kissing 
it. In Brittany there are several shrines of this worship. 
Newly-wedded pairs from the neighbourhood of Plouarnel 
and Saint Renan sometimes go to the menhir of Kerveathon 
in the latide of Kerloas ; and there bride and bridegroom 
rub simultaneously their abdomens against the two rough 
sides of the stone. By this the husband hopes to get many 
sons — the wife hopes to get not merely fecundity but the 
whip-hand of her husband. Near Rennes the newly 
married go, the first Sunday of Lent, to jump on a stone 
called the Bride-stone (Pierre des Epousees), singing the while 
a special song. Down to the Revolution there stood at 

^ County F.L.y Suffolk, 124, quoting Corolla Varia by Rev. VV. 
Hawkins (1634), and deeds of the monastery relating to the property 
and the bull. The rite had evidently been mutilated. 


Brest a chapel of Saint Guignolet, containing a priapian 
statue of the holy man. Women who were, or feared to 
be, sterile, used to go and scrape a little of the phallos, 
which they put into a glass of water from the well and 
drank. Another Breton saint called Guerlichon was simi- 
larly honoured. 1 

There is a miraculous stone on the sacred hill of Nikko 
in Japan, at which women who want to become mothers 
throw stones, sure of having their ambition gratified if they 
succeed in striking it. And in the Uyeno Park at Tokio 
is a seated statue of Buddha. Whoso succeeds in flinging 
a stone upon the sacred knees attains the same result. At 
Whitchurch near Cardiff, in the last century, a woman 
animated by the wish for children would go on Easter 
Monday to the parish churchyard, armed with two dozen 
tennis balls, half of them covered with white leather and 
the other half with black, and would throw them over the 
church. The operation was to be repeated every year until 
her wish was accomplished.^ I shall return to these prac- 
tices in a future chapter. In the Tirol there are miraculous 
images beside which little waxen figures in the shape of 
toads are hung. The figures are called Muetterti. It is 
believed that every woman has inside her a creature in this 
form. Many a mother has gone to sleep with her mouth 
open, and the muetter has crept out and gone to plunge 
into the nearest water. If she do not close her mouth, the 
muetter by-and-bye gets back safely, and the woman, pre- 
viously sick, is restored to health. But if she close her 
mouth, she dies. Unfruitful women offer these waxen 

1 Ploss, i. Weiby 444 ; Berenger-Feraud, 200. Other Breton cases 
are referred to by Sebillot, i. Trad, et Sup., 51. 

3 vi. Melusine, 154, quoting the Temps; 258, quoting Byegones. 


figures to images of the Madonna, or of the Pieta.^ On 
the Gold Coast, Bassamese women who are possessed by a 
demon of barrenness meet at the fetich hut and deposit 
consecrated vases and figures of clay representing mothers 
nursing, while they present to the fetich offerings of tobacco 
and handkerchiefs. The demons are frightened away by 
the noise of fire-arms, drums and the blowing of horns. 
The officiating chief makes an offering of gold-dust, and 
then spirts a mouthful of rum over the belly of every 
woman who desires issue. An improvised banquet brings 
the solemnity to a close.^ The figures in both these cases 
may be regarded as a symbolic dedication of the mother, 
or more probably the child, to the supernatural being whose 
aid, like that of the ogre in the tale, is invoked. The 
women on the Babar islands in the Malay Archipelago take 
measures bearing some superficial resemblance to the last, 
but widely different in meaning. The help of a man who 
is rich in children is first obtained. The husband then 
collects fifty or sixty young kalapa fruits, while the wife 
prepares a doll about twenty inches long in red kattun. 
On the appointed day the man comes to their hut, puts the 
husband and wife to sit near together, and sets before them 
a plate containing sirih-pinang and a young kalapa fruit. 
The latter is opened, and both husband and wife are 
sprinkled with the juice. The assistant then takes a fowl, 
holds its feet against the woman's head and prays, apparently 
in her name : " O Upulero, make use of this fowl, let fall 
a man, let him step down into my hands, I pray thee, I 

1 Zingerle, Sitten, 26. PIoss, i. lVeil>, 444, reproduces a photograph 
of one of these votive figures bought by the author in a wax-chandler's 
shop at Salzburg as recently as 1890. 

- Featherman, Nigritians, 139, quoting Hecquard. 



implore thee, let fall a man, let him step down into my 
hands and on my lap!" He asks the woman: "Is the 
child come?" She answers : " Yes, it is already sucking." 
Then he touches the man's head with the fowl's feet and 
mutters certain formulae. The fowl is put to death by a 
blow against the posts of the hut, opened, and the veins 
about the heart probed. It is laid on a plate and put on 
the domestic altar. The news is spread in the village that 
the woman is pregnant, and every one comes and congratu- 
lates her. The husband borrows a cradle, in which the doll 
is placed, and for seven days it is treated as a new-born 
child.i Here it is simulation that plays the important part. 
In addition to the prayer and sacrifice, which might be 
found anywhere, the Babar islander pretends that the 
prayer has been granted, and acts accordingly. Simulation 
as a form of magic is well known over the whole earth. As 
appHed to cause conception it is not one of the practices 
to which we have had to direct special attention in this 
chapter. But it deserves a passing notice as strengthening 
the general argument that conception is held to be caused 
by other than natural means. A common form of simula- 
tion for the purpose of obtaining children is found in the 
custom of putting a boy to sit on the bride's lap at a 
wedding. The ceremony was usual among the ancient 
Aryans, and is prescribed in detail in the ApastamhaP' It 
is still followed in the east of Europe and elsewhere. In 
England, to rock an empty cradle is to rock a new baby 
into it. The Bechuana, Basuto and Agni women carry dolls, 
which they treat like children. ^ And in China a barren 

1 Ploss, i. Weib^ 442, quoting Riedel. 

2 Winternitz, 23, 75 ; Schroeder, 123. 

3 Casalis, 265 ; Tylor, E. Hist., 109; M. Delafosse, in iv. V Anthro- 
pologies 444. 


woman adopts a little girl to produce conception — a practice 
for which an elaborate reason is assigned. In the invisible 
world, it is said, every woman is represented by a tree, which 
bears as many flowers as she is fated to bear children. If 
she be sterile, her tree will not bear; and then, just as 
a fruit-tree is grafted to make it bring forth fruit, so by 
adopting a little girl she will provoke on her tree the 
germination of flowers, and thus become fruitful. ^ 

Reviewing the superstitious rites here brought together, 
it will be seen that no case is found where fecundity has 
been held to be procured by the sense of smell, or of sight, 
as in some of the tales. It was, however, an ancient classi- 
cal belief that partridges were impregnated in some such 
way ; for Pliny tells us that if the female only stood 
opposite to the male and the wind blew from him towards 
her, or if he simply flew over her head, or very often if she 
merely heard his voice, it would be enough.- Though we do 
not find the possibility of obtaining fecundity by a glance, 
we have in the superstitions of the Evil Eye so widely, well- 
nigh universally, spread a belief in a power quite as great, 
though exercised in a different way. In the power of 
magicians to eat by a look, the Evil Eye performed the 
converse of impregnation. The authorities on this subject 
have been laboriously collected by M. Tuchmann, to whose 
work the reader is referred." Belief in impregnation by the 
wind only would seem to present difliculties at least as 
great as any of these. Yet it was a common behef among 

^ vi. ATelusine, 231, quoting Doolittle. 

2 Pliny, Nat. Hist., x. 51. See also /Elian, Nat. Anirn., xvii. 15. 
As to the power of flowers to imprint themselves by their smell on 
the foetus, see Vasconcellos, 201. 

3 V. Melusine, 248. 


the ancients, not merely used for a poetical ornament by 
Vergil, but repeated without question as a literal fact by 
men of lofty intellect and wide attainments like Pliny and 
Augustine, that mares were, in Lusitania, as the former 
asserts, or in Cappadocia, according to the latter, fertilised 
by wind.i And if the inhabitants of the district of Lampong, 
in the island of Sumatra, be not maligned, they, at the be- 
ginning of the present century, believed all the people on 
the neighbouring island of Engano to be females who were 
impregnated in the same manner.^ 

It cannot of course be asserted that in every instance of 
magical practices collected in the present chapter, preg- 
nancy is believed to be supernaturally caused by the means 
prescribed, apart from the natural means, as in the tales. 
Indeed, the natural means are often expressly to be em- 
ployed in addition to the magical ceremonies. Yet the line 
between natural and supernatural is so faint in savage minds 
that it is difficult to know how much is to be ascribed to 
the one and how much to the other. And we are justified 
in believing, not only that the practices tend to render 
credible the stories, but further that the stories and the 
practices — as well as superstitions, like those mentioned 
in the last paragraph, unconnected with practice — are inex- 
tricably intermingled, and owe their origin to the same 
habit of thought. Nor must we forget that the relationship 
between father and child was in early times imperfectly 
recognised. The researches of the last five-and-twenty or 
thirty years have established that among many savage races 
the father was held to be no relation to his children. Even 
where he exercised, as among the native Australians, 

1 Pliny, Nat. Hist. , viii. 67 ; Aug. Civ. Dei, xxi. 5. 

2 Marsden, 297. 


despotic power over wife and children, the latter were held 
to be his rather as owner than as begetter ; and the owner- 
ship of both wife and children passed at his death to his 
brothers, while at the same time the relationships of the 
children were reckoned exclusively with their mother's kin. 
This system of relationships, known scientifically as Mother- 
right, traces whereof are almost everywhere found, can only 
have sprung either from a kind of promiscuity wherein the 
true father could not have been ascertained, or from an 
imperfect recognition of the great natural fact of fatherhood. 
Both causes, perhaps, played their part. But at least we 
may say that the attitude of mind which favours the 
practices and beliefs we have been discussing is one which 
would be consistent, and consistent alone, with the im- 
perfect recognition of paternity. And it is unquestionable 
that the superstitions, once rooted, would be likely to sur- 
vive long after paternity had become an accepted fact, and, 
tenacious of their existence, would seek new grounds of 
justification. This would have the effect of gradually trans- 
forming the stories from matter-of-fact statements of no 
unusual interest into sacred legends, into mere tales told 
for pleasure, and into wonders believed but unexplained, 
and the practices into religious rites and rude medical 



IN the course of our examination of tales of Supernatural 
Birth we have more than once found that birth was to 
the hero merely a new manifestation. He had previously 
existed in other shapes, and by undergoing birth (preceded 
sometimes, but not always, by death) he was entering on a 
new career, he was ascending a new stage of being. The 
child in the Annamite story of Posthumous Revenge had 
been an eel, with liberty of metamorphosis into other 
forms. Marjatta's child in the half-heathen postscript to 
the Kalevala had been the creator of the sun and moon. 
Yehl, the Thlinkit hero-god, repeatedly became the son 
of ladies, who were beguiled into swallowing a pebble, a 
blade of grass, or even a drop of water, which was no other 
than the divinity in disguise. The subject, however, is so 
important, not merely in the general study of savage ideas, 
but in relation to the myth of Perseus, especially in its 
modern forms, that it is necessary to deal with it a little 
more at length. 

The oldest known story wherein transformation of this 
kind forms an incident is that of The Two Brothers. The 
manuscript now in the British Museum was written by the 
scribe Enna, or Ennana, and belonged to the Egyptian 



monarch Seti 11., of the nineteenth dynasty, before he came 
to the throne. We have the story, therefore, in the shape 
it bore about the earHer half of the thirteenth century 
before Christ. It is a long one, and I have only space for 
a very meagre abstract. There were, thus it runs, two 
brothers, Anpu and Bata, of whom Anpu, the elder, was 
married, and Bata served him. Anpu's wife fell in love 
with the younger brother, and tempted him as Potiphar's 
wife tempted Joseph, and with a similar result. The elder 
brother, when his wife denounced Bata to him, became 
like a panther with rage, and lay in wait behind the stable- 
door to slay his brother when he returned from the field. 
The oxen, however, warn the youth, who flees and invokes 
the Sun-god Horus to judge between himself and his 
brother. With the god's assistance he escapes; and 
Chnum, at Horus' request, makes a wife for him, that he 
may not dwell alone. His happiness, however, is not 
lasting. The sea carries one of the woman's fragrant locks 
to Egypt, where it is taken to the king, who sends to seek 
its owner, and makes her his favourite. Now Bata kept his 
heart in the top of the flower of the Cedar. This was 
known to the woman ; and by her advice the king sent and 
cut down the Cedar. The flower fell to the ground, and 
Bata's heart with it ; and he died. When he escaped from 
his brother, Bata had found means to convince him of his 
innocence, and had given him a sign, saying that when 
Anpu should take a jug of beer in his hand and it should 
turn into froth, then he should know that Bata was dead, 
and he should come and look for him. Anpu, warned in 
this way of his brother's death, sought and found him ; and 
after a long search he discovered his heart lying beneath 
the Cedar. He picked it up and put it into a cup of cold 


water. Bata thereupon revived, and having drunk up the 
water and his heart with it, he became as he had been 
before. The next day he assumed the form of a great bull 
with all the sacred marks, which his brother brought and 
gave to the king. In this form Bata found means to make 
himself known to his wife. She for her part was by no 
means pleased to see him ; and having wheedled an oath 
out of the king that he would grant her whatsoever she 
asked, she demanded the bull's liver. As he was being 
slain two drops of his blood fell upon the king's door-posts, 
and forthwith grew up two mighty persea-trees. One of 
these trees spoke to the Favourite, accusing her of her 
crimes, and declaring : "I am Bata, I am living still, 
I have transformed myself." She caused the trees to be 
cut down j but while she stood by to watch, a splinter 
flew off, and, entering her mouth, rendered her pregnant. 
In due time she gave birth to a son, who became 
prince, and upon the king's death succeeded to the 
throne. Then he summoned the nobles and councillors ; 
his wife was brought to him, and he had a reckoning 
with her.^ 

There are many points of exceeding interest in this, one 
of the oldest fairy-tales on record. For us, however, they 
centre on Bata's transformations. He changes first into a 
sacred bull without undergoing death. He is then slain ; 
and from his blood spring up two persea-trees. These are 
cut down ; and his final metamorphosis is, by the medium 
of birth, once more into a human being; for there can 
be no doubt that the child born of the king's Favourite 
is regarded as Bata himself. A modern Transylvanian 
mdrche7t unfolds a similar series of adventures; though 
^ ii. Records of the Past, 137 ; Maspero, 3. 


it is wanting in the consummate irony of the Egyptian tale, 
which makes the lady become pregnant of her foe and give 
him at last the life to avenge himself of her villainies. A 
king overhears two maidens boasting of what they would 
do, the one, if she were married to him, the other, if she 
were his cook. He marries the former, and makes the 
other his cook. But the latter is jealous ; and when the 
queen bears twins, a boy and a girl with golden hair, she 
contrives to bury them in the dung-heap, and impose upon 
the king and court with a cat and dog, which she alleges 
to be the queen's offspring. The king therefore buries his 
queen alive, and marries the cook. Out of the dung-heap 
grew two golden fir-trees, in whose beauty the king took great 
pleasure. His new wife, on the contrary, is uneasy, and 
declares she cannot rest unless on boards made from those 
very trees. The king reluctantly has them cut down ; and 
now she would be happy, but that in the night she hears the 
boards beneath the royal bed conversing as brother and 
sister. Accordingly the next day she causes them to be 
burnt in the oven ; but two sparks fall among some barley, 
which is given to an ewe. The ewe drops two lambs with 
golden fleeces. As soon as she sees them, the queen falls 
sick and craves for their hearts to eat. Once more com- 
pliant, her husband allows them to be killed. Their hearts 
are roasted for the queen ; their entrails are thrown into the 
river. Two pieces are carried by the water and thrown on 
a distant shore, where the two children with golden hair re- 
appear from them, and so charm the sun with their beauty 
that he stands to watch them and goes not down for 
seven whole days, God, wondering why the night so long 
delayed, went to inquire of the sun, and was shown the 
twins. By His means they were restored to their father. 


the wicked queen was punished, and their mother brought 
back to Hfe.i 

M. Cosquin, commenting on the Egyptian tale, has 
brought together a number of analogues, chiefly European. 
I proceed to notice some of these, and a few others con- 
taining a similar chain of incidents. In a Roumanian story 
which follows the main lines of the Transylvanian, an 
emperor's son weds the youngest of three daughters. The 
heroine's foes, however, are not her sisters, but her 
husband's stepmother and her daughter. As she had fore- 
doomed, she bears twin sons with golden hair and a golden 
star on the forehead. By his stepmother's treachery her 
husband is induced to beheve that she has given birth to 
two puppies ; and he orders her to be buried in the earth 
to the breast, that the world might know what was her 
punishment who would betray the emperor's son. Then 
he married his stepsister. The twins had been interred 
beneath the emperor's window; and out of their grave 
grew two fair aspen-trees. In three days they had attained 
the stature of three years, and the emperor took great 
pleasure in them. Long did his wife beg for permission to 
cut them down ere he yielded ; but, after all, emperors are 
but men. So cut down they were, and made by his com- 
mand, the one into a bedstead for himself and the other for 
the empress. But the bedsteads talked, as in the Transyl- 
vanian tale, and the empress overheard them. The next 
day she caused them to be burnt, and their ashes thrown 

^ Haltrich, i (Story No. i). In a Wallachian variant the trees are 
apple-trees, the mother is only expelled, and the tremendous Deus ex 
machind of the Transylvanian story is not brought upon the scene. 
Schott, 121 (Story No. 8). This is a later stage in the history of the 
tale. See also another variant, Schott, 332. 


to the winds. When the fire was hottest there flew out 
two sparks and fell into the deep water that flowed through 
the realm. There they became two fish with golden scales. 
They were caught by the imperial fishermen, and then 
changed back into their original form of twin boys with 
golden hair and golden stars. When they had grown up 
they made their way to the palace and told their tale, to 
the confusion and condemnation of their enemies, and the 
restoration of their mother to her rightful place. ^ Accord- 
ing to a Sicilian variant, the heroine, married against the 
will of the queen, her mother-in-law, bears thirteen children, 
twelve sons and a daughter. They are thrown into the 
garden, where they grow up as twelve orange-trees and a 
lemon-tree. A goat eats them and bears the children 
anew.2 In a Bengalee tale the heroine kindly relieves her 
fellow-wife by accidentally tumbling into a well. A rishi 
explains to her husband that she was not of royal blood, 
but had been born a rat, and changed by him at her own 
wish into a cat, then into a dog, a boar, an elephant and a 
beautiful girl, successively. He directs the well to be filled 
up, and causes a poppy-tree to grow up out of her flesh and 
bones ; and that is the origin of opium. ^ 

A German tale belonging to an entirely different cycle 
approaches the Egyptian mdrchen in representing the trans- 
formations as incidents of a contest between a man and a 
woman, wherein the man is ultimately victorious. The 
hero, having disenchanted a king and all his court, obtains 
a magical sword and becomes the champion of the un- 
spelled monarch against an aggressive neighbour. The 

^ Kremnitz, 30 (Story No. 3), from Slavici. 
^ iv. Pitre, 328 (variant of Story No. 36). 
3 Day, 145 (Story No. 9). 


latter has a clever daughter, who entraps the champion by 
her wiles and makes off with his sword. This results in 
his total defeat and capture by her father, who all-to hacks 
him, stuffs the pieces into a bag and sends it to the invaded 
king with his compliments, and there was his champion. 
The hero is, however, restored to life by a master-sorcerer, 
and endowed with the power of assuming what shape he 
will. He takes that of a magnificent horse, which the 
invading king is induced to buy. The king's daughter 
scents a trick, and the horse's head is cut off. Three drops 
of his blood fall into the apron of the king's cook, and she 
buries the apron, as the horse has previously directed her, 
under the eaves. A cherry-tree grows up on the spot ; 
and when the princess cuts it down, the cook throws three 
chips into the pond, where they change into three golden 
ducks. The princess kills two, and, capturing the third, 
takes it into her bedchamber. There it finds the stolen 
sword and flies off with it. Resuming his proper form, the 
hero defeats and destroys the aggressive king and his whole 
family, and marries the compassionate cook.^ In a Russian 
story, the hero is betrayed by his wife to the Turks, and 
killed. Recalled to life, he changes into a marvellous horse 
with a golden mane, which the sultan buys. But Cleopatra, 
the hero's wife, recognises her husband through his magical 
disguise. When the horse is slain, from his blood arises a 
bull with golden hair. Cleopatra kills it in turn, and from 
its head an apple-tree springs with fruit of gold. The 
apple-tree is cut down ; and its first chip is transformed 
into a golden duck, which overswims the river and on the 
other side regains its pristine form as the hero.^ A Breton 

^ Wolf, Deutsche Hausm. , 390. 

^ Maspero, xvi., quoting Rambaud, La Rtissie Ii,pique, 


tale represents the hero as changing himself into a horse. 
When the horse is put to death, a ball of his curdled blood 
is put on a stone in the sun and sprinkled with magical 
water. A cherry-tree grows out of it, laden with fine red 
cherries. When the cherry-tree is cut down, a cherry is 
sprinkled, and a beautiful blue bird comes out of it. The 
treacherous wife is desirous of catching it ; and her new 
husband lays down the hero's magical sword to enable him 
to move more freely. The bird then seizes the sword, and, 
rapidly changing back into the hero, puts his false wife 
and her second choice to death.^ 

In none of the foregoing stories do we find the hero vic- 
torious by means of a second birth from a woman. In a 
White-Russian variant of The Outcast Wife group, the 
heroine, married to a king, has two sisters, who deceive the 
king as to her offspring and cause her twin boys to be 
buried alive. Out of their graves grow two maples, one 
with a golden, the other with a silver, stem. The king 
puts away his wife, and marries one of her sisters. She 
has the maples cut down to make a bed, and afterwards 
burns the bed and sprinkles the ashes on the road. An 
ewe swallows some of the ashes, and bears two lambs, 
marked like the boys, with a moon on the head and a star 
on the nape of the neck. The new queen orders the lambs 
to be slaughtered, and their entrails to be thrown out into 
the street. Her divorced sister having gathered up the 
entrails, cooks and eats them, and thus becomes once more 
mother to her sons. When they are grown up they reveal 
the whole story to the king, and obtain the reinstatement 
of their mother and the punishment of her guilty sister.^ 

^ Luzel, iii. Conies Fop., 262. 

" Wratislaw, 138 (Story No. 23), from Afanasief. 


A curious tale from Cyprus brings before us a girl who is 
fated to wed her own father, of whom she is to have a son, 
and that son she is afterwards to take for husband. In 
order to defeat the prophecy she contrives her father's 
murder. From the ground where the body is buried an 
apple-tree springs up and produces beautiful apples. The 
heroine buys some, and, eating them, becomes pregnant. 
When she learns where the apples grew she determines to 
kill her child. As soon as it is born, therefore, she stabs it 
in the breast, nails it up in a coffer, and flings the coffer 
into the sea. It is picked up by a vessel ; and the captain, 
finding the child still living, adopts it. It grows up to 
manhood and fulfils the prophecy. From the wound-marks 
on his breast the mother recognises in her husband her 
own child ; and on hearing his story she understands at last 
how useless it is to struggle against fate, and puts an end 
to her own life.^ 

Quite another group is reached when we come to a series 
wherein the heroine first appears in the shape of a fruit. 
This is opened by the hero, and a maiden comes out. In 
a mdrche?i from Asia Minor the maiden is, in the hero's 
absence, thrown into a well by a black slave, who takes her 
place. In the well she becomes a golden fish. When the 
prince catches it the slave gets him to kill it and make 
broth of it for her. But three drops of its blood fall to the 
ground and shoot up into a cypress-tree. The tree is cut 
down and burnt. A chip clings to the dress of an old 
woman who comes and asks for a light; and this chip 
changes again into the heroine.^ In Basile's version the 
slave sticks a needle into the lady's temple and transforms 

^ Legrand, 107, from Sakellarios. 
2 i. Von Hahn, 268. 


her into a dove. The dove is caught, killed, scalded and 
plucked, in order to be cooked ; and the water and feathers 
are thrown into the garden. Within three days a citron-tree, 
like that out of which the heroine originally came, rises, 
and bears three fine citrons. The king plucks them ; and 
when he has opened them, his true love emerges from the 
third, and condign punishment is meted out to the slave.^ 
A tale from the Deccan presents a maiden, brought up in 
an eagle's nest, after sundry adventures happily married to 
a rajah. She is pitched into the water-tank by her jealous 
fellow-wife. A sunflower grows up in the tank ; and the 
jealous woman, when she finds her husband becoming fond 
of it, orders her servants to dig it up and burn it. A mango- 
tree grows up on the spot where the sunflower has been 
burnt, bearing one magnificent mango. It is gathered by a 
milk-woman, and turns into the heroine." A variant, which 
looks like an earlier form of the story, brings the heroine 
originally out of a bel-fruit. The sunflower is replaced by 
a lotus ; and when the false wife tears the lotus-flower to 
pieces a bel-tree grows on the spot, bearing one fruit, which 
contains the Bel-princess once more.'^ In a Cinderella tale, 
told by the Tjames, Kajong, persecuted by her foster-sister 
Haloek, throws herself into a lake and suffers transformation 
into a golden turtle. The king marries Haloek instead, 
but cannot forget Kajong. The golden turtle is caught, 
and in the king's absence his wife kills and eats it, throwing 
the shell behind the house. A bamboo springs up from the 
shell. When Haloek cooks and eats the bamboo-shoot, 
the husk becomes a bird. She cooks the bird; and the 

^ ii. Pe?itamerotte, 231 (Story No. 59). 
- Frere, 79 (Story No. 6). 
2 Stokes, 138 (Story No. 21). 


feathers, thrown away, turn into a moekya-tree, the fruit of 
which bears a resemblance to the outHne of a woman. Out 
of the fruit the heroine comes again.^ 

There is a group of stories very popular in Europe and 
known to the farthest extremities of Asia and Africa. As 
usually told, a girl or a boy is killed by an envious brother 
and buried. Some time after, a bone is picked up and 
fashioned into a shepherd's pipe; or a reed growing on the 
grave is cut and made into a similar instrument. No 
sooner does the musician put the pipe to his mouth than 
the voice of the murdered child is heard within it, reciting 
his death and accusing his murderer. Occasionally, how- 
ever, the tree, or plant, which grows from the grave sings 
or speaks of itself, as in the Dahoman version, where a 
mushroom appears on the grave. The mother of the 
murdered boy is about to pluck it, when it says to her : 
" Mother, pluck not. I was with my comrades. They gave 
me two thousand cowries. They only gave one thousand 
to my brother. Then he cruelly killed me ; my brother 
killed me ! " Sometimes it is a rose which speaks of itself, 
or when it is put to the mouth ; sometimes a flute made 
from the branch of a tree which has grown on the grave. 
In one case it is a pomegranate from such a tree : when the 
fruit is brought to the king it changes into the head of the 
murdered man. At other times the crime is revealed by a 
whistle, or pipe, which has belonged to the victim, or has 
fallen in his blood. Again, a bird will proclaim itself the 
victim and tell the story, or lead the avenging kindred to 
the grave. A Chinese drama, believed to be founded on 
a folktale, represents the body as burnt by the assassin, 

^ Landes, Tjavies^ 79 (Story No. 10). It is abstracted in Miss Cox's 
Cinderella y 299. 


and the ashes made into a dish. The dish denounces the 

The old Scottish ballad of Binnorie belongs to this group, 
though in all its British variants it has been modernised. 
Scott's version, the best known, is only half traditional. 
The elder sister drowns the younger for the sake of her 
lover. The body is found by the miller in "the bonny 
mill-dams of Binnorie." 

" A famous harper passing by 
The sweet pale face he chanced to spy. 

'* He made a harp of her breast-bone, 
Whose sounds would melt a heart of stone. 

"The strings he framed of her yellow hair, 
Whose notes made sad the listening ear." 

Here the ballad has obviously been manipulated; but a 
comparison of other versions shows that the sense has been 

" He laid this harp upon a stone, 
And straight it began to play alone. 

" ' O yonder sits my father, the king, 
And yonder sits my mother, the queen. 

" ' And yonder stands my brother Hugh, 
And by him my William, sweet and true ! ' 

" But the last tune that the harp played then, 
Binnorie, O Binnorie ! 
Was ' Woe to my sister, false Helen ! ' 
By the bonny mill-dams of Binnorie." 

^ A large number of these stories has been abstracted and com- 
mented on by M. Eugene Monseur, i. Bulletin de F.L., 89, to whose 
accurate and scholarly paper the reader is referred. See also Grimm, 
ii. Tales, 538 ; Countess Martinengo-Ccsaresco, 9 ; Ellis, Yoruba, 134. 



" According to all complete and uncorrupted forms of the 
ballad," says Professor Child, comparing not only British 
examples, but also a large number from Denmark, Scandi- 
navia, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, "either some part of 
the body of the drowned girl is taken to furnish a musical 
instrument^ a harp or a viol, or the instrument is wholly 
made from the body." And he suggests that the original 
conception was the simple and beautiful one found in 
several variants, that the king's harper, or the girl's lover, 
takes three locks of her yellow hair to string his harp with. 
I venture to think he is wrong. The tradition supplied by 
the singer of one of the Swedish versions, though lost from 
the ballad itself, is much nearer the mark in relating that 
the drowned maiden floated ashore and grew up into a 
lime-tree, from whose wood the harp was made. As a 
matter of art it may be that, as Professor Child goes on to 
remark, "the restoration of the younger sister, like all good 
endings foisted on tragedies, emasculates the story." But 
art is a slow growth, a growth of civilisation, and this 
tragedy is an ancient, a barbarous tale. Here the good 
ending has not been foisted on. It is of the very essence 
and primitive matter of the plot. It is not found in the 
more modern and cultured versions, but in the ruder and 
more archaic. It does not occur once in England and 
Scotland, w^here the influence of culture has been most 

Without tarrying to discuss these ballads any further, let 
me refer briefly to three variants of an unmistakably 
antiquated character collected among the Santal aborigines 
of Bengal. In one of them the maiden is drowned by her 
seven brothers' wives. She reappears as a bamboo growing 
1 i. Child, 1 1 8. 


on the embankment of the tank where she had lost her Hfe. 
Out of the bamboo a fiddle is made which, when played, 
seems to wail as in bitter anguish, and moves the hearers to 
tears. It is acquired by a village chief. In the absence of 
the household the maiden comes out of it and prepares 
the family meal. The chief's son watches, discovers and 
marries her. A second version relates that the maiden was 
given by her brothers to the water-spirit to obtain water in 
a tank they had made. Right in the middle of the tank 
where she was drowned there sprang up an upel-flower, 
the purple sheen of which filled the beholder with delight. 
The bridegroom, to whom she had been betrothed pre- 
viously to her sacrifice, comes to claim his bride, and 
gathers the flower. Ere the bridal procession reaches the 
bridegroom's dwelling on its return, the flower has become 
the bride. The third version is more striking still. Here 
the heroine was eaten by a monkey. The monkey died, 
and from the place where his body decayed a gourd sprang 
and grew, and bore a fruit. A banjo was made of this 
gourd, which emitted wonderful music and sang the 
maiden's fate. Her sister, the rani, cheated the minstrel 
out of the instrument and hid it in her own room. There 
the maiden, coming out, was discovered by the rajah, her 
sister's husband ; and matters were arranged more happily 
than in the Scottish ballad, by the two sisters' sharing one 

In most of the cases we have dealt with, the metamor- 

1 Campbell, Santal F.T., 52, 106, 102. In a Basuto tale a mother, 
irritated by her daughter, commits a deadly assault upon her, and 
beats her body to dust. The wind of the desert carries the dust away 
to a lake, where a crocodile makes of it a woman to live with him in 
the lake. From time to time she comes up to the surface and calls to 
her sister, chanting the story of her wrongs. Casalis, 360. 


phoses undergone by the hero or heroine are, as in the 
Egyptian tale, stages of a contest. A curious example, 
where the contest is between a 77ihulu^ or supernatural 
female, and a woman, is given in a Zulu tale. The mhulu 
was found out and put to death. From the spot where she 
was buried a pumpkin came up and tried to kill the child 
of the woman who had married the mbulu^s husband. But 
the people chopped the pumpkin into pieces, burned them 
and threw the ashes into the river, so that nothing more 
could come of that mhulu} In the Russian story of The 
Fiendj the struggle is with a supernatural being over whose 
personality Christianity has thrown a deeper tint of horror. 
The heroine, having fallen under the Fiend's power, dies. 
By her directions and her wise old grandmother's advice, 
her body is not carried out through the doorway, but 
(according to an old custom, the object of which was to 
prevent the dead from finding the way back) by a hole 
dug under the threshold, and is buried at a crossway. A 
wondrous flower arises from the spot. Taken home by a 
young lord and placed in a flower-pot, the blossom falls at 
night from its stem and turns into a lovely maiden, whom 
of course the nobleman weds.- 

The stories cited in previous chapters of the hermit 
burnt to death and then born anew from a girl who eats, or 
smells, his heart, or some other portion of his body, are 
unconnected with a contest. So is the Eskimo tale of the 
young woman who was caught by a whale. After living 
with him some time she fled and lived with the seals in the 
form of a seal. In that shape she was harpooned by a man 
and cut to pieces. Her head was taken home and thrown 
beneath the bench, whence she slipped into the womb of 

1 Theal, 138. ^ Ralston, Russian F.T.^ 10, from Afanasief. 


the man's wife and was born anew. The name she received 
in this fresh birth was her old and euphonious name of 
Avigiatsiak.^ A Tjame tale speaks of a youth who dies of 
hopeless love of a princess. Before his death he begs his 
mother, as soon as he has yielded up the ghost, to take out 
his liver, dry it and preserve it in a box. The king is 
attacked with a disease of the eyes, and is advised by his 
astrologers to steep the dried liver of a man in water and 
bathe his eyes with it. The lover's is the only one to be 
procured. In bathing his eyes with the water the king 
observes a little babe playing in the basin. He calls his 
daughters to look at it ; and it draws the youngest of them, 
the object of the dead man's love, into the basin, where she 
disappears. Recourse is had again to the astrologers, who 
on consulting the lots discover the history of the dead lover 
and the cause of the princess' disappearance. In the end, 
as the astrologers predict, the king's wife bears a boy, who 
is no other than the lover born again, and his first mother 
bears a girl. When they grow up the king marries them ; 
and on his death the boy becomes king.^ Numerous 
Chinese tales are founded on the same superstition. In 
one, a man on dying contrives to avoid drinking the 
oblivious potion to which all the dead are condemned, and 
thus remembers his transformations. For his crimes he is 
next born as a horse^ then as a puppy, afterwards as a snake, 
and lastly as a human being once more.^ In another, the 
son of the Thunder-god takes a man for a trip among the 
clouds. In the course of his adventures he manages to 
steal a small star, which he brings back with him to the 
earth. By day it looked an ordinary, dull stone, but at 

^ Rink, 450. 2 Landes, Tja^nes^ ']T. 

2 ii. Giles, 207. See also ibid., 119, 267, 279. 


night it became brilliant and lighted up the house. One 
evening it began to flit about like a fire-fly, and finally 
entered his wife's mouth and went down her throat. That 
night the husband dreamed that an old friend long dead 
appeared to him, and said : " I am the Shao-wei star. 
Your friendship is still cherished by me, and now you have 
brought me back from the sky. Truly our destinies are 
knitted together, and I will repay your kindness by becom- 
ing your son." His wife afterwards bore him a boy.^ 

A favourite theme in Western folk-song, a theme also 
known as far away as China, is that of the lovers, brought, 
like Tristram and Isolte, to a tragic end, from whose graves 
tAvo trees grow and intertwine their branches, as if they 
joined in a lasting embrace. It is obvious that the trees 
are merely the lovers transformed. Some of the variants 
in ballad or vuirchen make this clear. Such is the ballad 
of Count Nello of Portugal. The hero there falls in love 
with the Infanta. But her father opposes the match, and 
cuts ofl" the lover's head. The Infanta then dies, and is 
buried before the altar, while her lover is laid near the 
church-porch. On the one grave sprouts a cypress, on the 
other an orange-tree ; and their branches unite. The king 
orders them to be cut down. Blood flows from the cuts ; 
and from the one tree flies forth a dove and from the other 
a wood-pigeon.2 So in the Highland story of Deirdre the 
lovers are buried on either side of a loch. A fir-shoot 
grows out of either grave, and they unite in a knot above 
the loch. Twice the king orders them to be cut down, 
and twice they grow again. The third time they are aUowed 
to shoot forth and unite in peace.^ 

^ i. Giles, 413. " Countess Martinengo-Cesaresco, 24. 

^ Jacobs, Celtic F.T,, 82, from xiii. Celtic Mag.., 69. An Irish 


But this theme is found not only in mdrchen and ballad. 
It is not less frequent in saga. In Kurdestan were shown 
the graves of two lovers, renowned in Kurdish story, which 
were, in the sixteenth century, if we may believe the native 
writer Ahmed Khain of Bayazid, a place of pilgrimage. 
On each of the graves grew a rose-tree, whose branches 
entwined themselves together in token, as we are told, of 
love.^ In Germany many tales are told of white lilies grow- 
ing in sign of innocence and purity out of graves. Zingerle 
cites, among others, the case of William of Montpellier, 
from whose mouth sprang a lily wherein the words Ave 
Maria were to be read. From the grave of Saint Andrew 
of Rinn in the Tirol a snow-white lily also appeared, on 
whose leaves, as they opened, letters were seen. It was 
plucked by a boy before the letters could be read ; and the 
deed cost his family dear, for few of them there were who 
did not come to a violent or a premature end.^ In Pome- 
rania, a lad who learned with difficulty, and only succeeded 
in remembering the words " Our Father who art in heaven," 
died unconfirmed. The commune would not permit his 
burial in consecrated earth, so he was laid outside the 
churchyard, close to the fence. Out of his tomb arose a 
beautiful white lily, bearing plainly to be read the words 
"Our Father who art in heaven." On digging, it was 
found to be rooted in his heart. Near Wollin, on the road 
to Poblotz, is a spot covered with dog-roses, where, years 

form of this story, manifestly later in its present form, derives the 
interlacing trees from stakes of yew passed through the bodies of the 
lovers when they were buried. Gaidoz, in iv. Melusine^ 12, citing 
Transactions of the Gaelic Soc.^ 1808. 

^ W. Spottiswoode, in ii. Trans. Ethnol. Soc, N.S., 248. See for 
other examples iv. and v. MJlusine, passim. 

^ Zingerle, Sagen^ 136. 


ago, a woman was burnt as a witch and her remains buried. 
Before the end came to her sufferings she said : " If I be 
a witch, thorns will grow on my grave; if not, then roses." ^ 
Space does not admit of our following the tale in this shape 
through all the countries of Europe ; and it is needless. 
We may turn instead to note a few analogous superstitions 
elsewhere. Among the Kirghiz every one on whose grave 
a tree spontaneously grows is deemed a saint ; while among 
the Gallas of Abyssinia wood that has been burning a little 
is placed upon the grave after the funeral, and if it grow it 
is taken as a sign that the dead man is happy. ^ The 
Santals believe that good men enter into fruit-bearing trees. ^ 
In the Molucca Islands there is a tree which bears during 
the nighty from sunset to sunrise, a rapid succession of 
fragrant white flowers. To account for this phenomenon 
the inhabitants of Ternate have a tradition that there was 
once a beautiful woman who was beloved by the sun, and 
who, being deserted by her fickle lover, slew herself. Her 
body was, in accordance with the custom of the country, 
burnt ; and from her ashes arose the tree, called by the 
early Portuguese voyagers the Tree of Sorrow.'^ The legend 
current among the inhabitants of Nias, an island off the 
coast of Sumatra, to account for the origin of the cocoa- 
nut-tree, relates that Halu hada, a supernatural being, one 

^ i. Bldtt. f. Pomm. Volksk., 17. Other instances are cited there. 
Among the peasantry of the Riviera, thorns or nettles growing on a 
grave are a sign of the damnation of the dead ; if other plants grow, 
he is happy ; if a mixture, he is in purgatory. J. B. Andrews, in 
ix. Rev. Trad. Pop.^ 117. 

2 Featherman, Ttir. , 269 ; i. Macdonald, 229, citing Krapf. 

^ Hunter, Rural Bengal, 210. 

* ix. Rev. Trad. Pop., 75, quoting Argensola, ZTzV^zV^ afe /« Conqutte 
des Isles Moluques (Amsterdam, 1706). 


day sneezed so violently that he sneezed his head off. It 
fell to earth, and, being covered up, the precious tree, in- 
dispensable to man, sprang from the spot.^ A German 
practice is manifestly a relic of a belief similar to that re- 
corded in these tales and superstitions. If a farmer have 
several times a foal or calf die, he buries one of them in 
the garden, planting a young willow in its mouth. When 
the tree grows up it is never polled or lopped, but is allowed 
to grow its own way, and is believed to guard the farm 
from future casualties of the same kind.^ 

But though the identity of the tree with the dead man, 
or as in the last-cited custom with the animal, is clear in 
all these traditions, it is not precisely affirmed as would 
seem to be the case with the story of the pomegranate 
referred to a few pages back, or with an Arab 7narche7t from 
Tunis, in which a vine grows up from the very place where 
the blood of a murdered man had flowed. The murderer 
finds one enormous bunch of grapes upon it, although the 
season of grapes is not yet. Struck with its beauty, as well 
as with the uncommon occurrence, he takes the bunch to 
the sultan. On opening the basket the sultan found no 
grapes, but a man's head freshly cut off, dropping with 
blood. The murderer, horror-stricken, confessed his crime, 
and was summarily executed.^ Thus too in Ojibway legends, 
reproduced by Longfellow, that mysterious being 

"... the young Mondamin, 
With his soft and shining tresses, 
With his garments green and yellow, 
With his long and glossy plumage," 

came and wrestled thrice with one of their heroes. The 

1 Modigliani, 618. - Grimm, Tent. Myth.^ 181 1. 

2 viii. Rev. Trad. Pop., 279. 


third time the Ojibway was victorious. His antagonist was 
overthrown, killed and buried. The victor watched the 

" Kept the dark mould soft above it, 
Kept it clean from weeds and insects. 
Drove away with scoffs and shoutings 
Kahgahgee, the king of ravens. 
Till at length a small green feather 
From the earth shot slowly upward, 
Then another and another, 
And before the summer ended 
Stood the maize in all its beauty. 
With its shining robes about it, 
And its long, soft, yellow tresses ; 
And in rapture Hiawatha 
Cried aloud : * It is Mondamin ! 
Yes, the friend of man, Mondamin ! ' " 

The Brazihans have a parallel tradition about the manioc. 
It was a maiden who died, and, being buried in her mother's 
house, grew up as a plant, flourished and bore fruit.^ 
Among some tribes of Kaffirs, when twins are born they 
are examined, and the one appearing the more delicate is 
suffocated by placing a clod of earth in its mouth. When 
dead, it is buried near the doorway of the hut, and a dwarf 
aloe is planted over the grave. " The aloe is regarded in 
some way as the living representative of the dead infant; 
its spirit or shade is supposed to be in it, or to be hovering 
about it. When it is planted, its spines are carefully cut 
away that the survivor may play about it, and drag himself 
up by it, and make himself strong, as he would have done 
with his fellow-twin had he been permitted to live."^ It 

^ Dorman, 293, citing Smith's Brazil ; Von den Steinen, 369. 
2 Callaway, in \v, Journ. Anthr. Soc, cxxxviii. 


would be difficult to find a practice which would better 
explain that of the German farmer with his dead calf. 

In classical legends we meet everywhere cases of trans- 
formation, either before or after death, of men and women 
into trees or plants, or into some of the lower animals. 
The most famous case, and one which has recently been 
submitted to careful examination by two distinguished 
living anthropologists, is that of Attis, who was changed 
into a pine-tree and in that form worshipped. It would 
be impertinent in me, after the acute and exhaustive dis- 
cussions by Mr. Frazer and Mr. Grant Allen, to occupy 
any space with the consideration either of the legend or the 
cult. I only refer to them in this place as an illustration of 
ancient belief in metamorphosis, and for the purpose of 
recaUing the reader's attention to its identity with the super- 
stitions of savage tribes, as well as those preserved in 
modern folklore, which we are now reviewing. The cult of 
Attis may not have been based, as Mr. Grant Allen thinks, 
on the worship of a dead nian. "The tree-spirit and the 
corn-spirit, like most other deities," may not " originate in 
the ghost of the deified ancestor." ^ We need not go the 
length of Mr. Herbert Spencer's Euhemerism; on the 
contrary, we may regard it as a child (one among many) of 
his passion for explaining everything quite clearly, for stop- 
ping up all gaps and stubbing up all difficulties in his 
synthesis, rather than an all-sufficient account of the begin- 
nings of religion. It is certain, however, that the legend as 
we have it, the worship as it is recorded for us, implied a 
belief in metamorphosis as a possible and actual occurrence 
consequent upon death. This belief had descended to 

1 Grant Allen, Atlis, 33, and^awm. See also Frazer, Golden Bough, 
passim ; Botticher, 254 seqq. 


classic times from savagery, for to the savage mind death 
very often is merely metamorphosis. Nor, as we have seen, 
is the metamorphosis confined to vegetable forms. The 
pious ^neas beheld his father Anchises in a snake that 
crept from his tomb. The Zulu, not less pious, beholds his 
father in a snake lurking about his kraal. ^ The ancient 
Egyptians held that the souls of the departed could assume 
animal forms.^ The Yorubas think the souls of the dead 
are sometimes born again in animals, or, though more 
rarely, in plants.^ In the East Indies, a Dyak who dies by 
accident, as by drowning, is not buried, but carried into 
the forest and simply laid down there. It is believed that 
his soul enters a tree, a fish, or some other brute. Accord- 
ingly certain kinds, of fish are not eaten, and certain kinds 
of wood are not used, because they willingly harbour souls. 
On the other hand, the soul of a man over whom all 
proper funeral rites have been performed enters the City of 
Souls. But it cannot abide there for ever. After a life 
seven times as long as on the earth it dies and returns to 
this world, where it enters a mushroom, a fruit or a leaf, in 
the hope that it may be eaten by a human being or one of 
the lower animals. In such case the deceased is born 
again in the next offspring of the living creature which has 
eaten it ; otherwise he comes to an end.* The inhabitants 
of Nias believe that the soul at death divides into three 
parts. One of them goes to the village of the dead, and 
there often takes brute-form. Thus murderers become 
grasshoppers, those who die without male issue become 

^ Callaway, Rel. Syst.^ 140. 

2 Le Page Renouf, in xvi. Proc. Soc. Bihl. Arch., 100. 

2 Ellis, Yortiba, 133, 134. 

* Grabowsky, in ii. Internal. Archiv., 181, 187. 


night-flying moths, old men become hogs, and young 
children earthworms. Another part, called the ehcha, 
must be received in his mouth by the son of the dying 
person from the mouth of the latter, else it turns into a 
small animal and lingers about the body until search be 
made for it. When found, it is safely conveyed into a 
statuette representing the deceased.^ The natives of Ugi, 
in the Solomon Islands, believe that the souls of the 
dead pass into fireflies.^ The Moquis of North America 
maintained that death was nothing but a process of trans- 
mutation, and that the body was changed into animals, 
plants, and inanimate objects.^ The medicine men and 
women of the Sioux, it was believed, might be changed 
after death into wild beasts.* Among the Gallinomero of 
California bad men were thought to return in the shape of 
coyotes, just as the Buddhist population of Ladak hold that 
a malicious person is reincarnated as a marmot.^ A Tirolese 
tale exhibits the shapes even yet believed over a wide extent 
of Christendom to be assumed by guilty and by innocent 
souls. For many years, it is said, a large toad haunted the 
steps of a vaulted grave at Meran. Flung away it was, and 
killed it was ; but the next Ember Day there it would be 
sitting again upon the steps. At last a pious woman guessed 
that it was a poor soul, and spoke to it, asking what were 
the conditions of its deliverance. They were hard, but she 
fulfilled them ; and as soon as atonement was made the 
toad changed into a dove, white as a stainless flower, and 

^ Modigliani, 292, 277, 290, 293, 479. Is it too much to say that 
the Greek custom whereby the nearest relative received the dying 
breath in a kiss probably originated in a similar belief? 

" Guppy, 54. ^ Featherman, Ao7tco-Mar.^ 236. 

* Bourke, in ix. Rep. Bur. Ethtt.^ 470, quoting Schultze, in Smith- 
sonian Report lot 1^6^ , *" Powers, 182; Knight, 109. 


flew up before its deliverer's eyes into heaven.^ The 
numerous British legends of ghost-laying, in which the dead 
unquiet soul appears as a bull, a black dog, a toad, a fly, or 
what not, recur to the mind in this connection. The beast 
that is, after a struggle, imprisoned by the parson, or some 
other conjurer, in a boot, a snuff-box, or a bottle, or 
bricked up in the haunted chamber, is only the changed 
form of a once living man or woman. But the superstition 
as thus presented has been so often and so well com- 
mented on, that it is needless to illustrate it further. 

We can now understand the Bulgarian ballad cited in 
Chapter iv., containing the pathetic narrative of the hya- 
cinths growing out of the dead man's grave and causing his 
mother to give birth to another son. The flowers were a 
new manifestation of the youth who had been untimely 
slain ; and by them he entered again into his mother's 
womb and was born. This and others of the tales referred 
to in the same chapter and that which follows it are parallel 
with the tale of The Two Brothers in the transformations 
they present. And both they and many of the prac- 
tices detailed in the last chapter point very clearly to the 
belief that a dead person can be born again, if only the 
right means be taken for that end. 

All our illustrations of the doctrine of Transformation 
have been drawn from cases where the hero is conceived 
as having begun his career in human shape, whether as 
man or deity, save in the one instance of the Annamite 
story of Posthumous Revenge. There his pristine figure 
was an eel. But if the power of metamorphosis be such 
that human beings can be changed by means of death 

1 Zingerle, Sagen^ 137. Other examples on the following pages. 
Breton examples may be found in Le Braz, 122, 132, 270, 272, 417. 


and a fresh birth into brute and vegetable form, brutes 
and vegetables may equally be changed by the same 
agency into human beings. The mdrchen of The King 
of the Fishes displays this power. In the light of the 
transmutations we have passed in review, it is abundantly 
evident that the fisherman's sons, their horses, dogs and 
life-tokens, are nothing more nor less than the ancestor-fish 
in a new mould. In previous chapters we have examined 
cases in which men and women deceased have been held 
to reappear as human babes without undergoing any inter- 
mediate change into lower forms ; and we have others yet 
to examine. What is expressly affirmed in tales where 
pregnancy is caused by tasting the ashes of a corpse, what 
is implicit in the disgusting superstitions which lead women 
to swallow portions of dead bodies, must also be understood 
in the parallel cases where fishes and fruit are eaten and 
result in the production of children. Here then we have 
the real meaning of the tales and superstitions considered 
in the last three chapters. At their root lies the belief in 
Transformation. Flowers, fruit, and other vegetables, eggs, 
fishes, spiders, worms, and even stones, are all capable of 
becoming human beings. They only await absorption in 
the shape of food, or in some other appropriate manner, 
into the body of a woman, to enable the metamorphosis to 
be accomplished. In some cases, as where drugs and other 
compounds are used, or where water or sunbeams are the 
fructifying power, this meaning has been forgotten. The 
virtue of such means is usually imputed to magical or divine 
power. But this does not appear to be the original belief. 
The original belief is intimately bound up with the savage 
theory of the universe. In that theory no strict line of 
cleavage runs across Nature. All things may change their 


shape, some at will, others on the fulfilment of certain condi- 
tions, whereof death, as applying to all animal and vegetable 
life, is perhaps the most usual. Most of the instances of 
death and new birth we have yet to deal with have little 
apparent relation to this point. But, so far as they add to 
the general evidence as to the reappearance of the dead in 
fresh births, even the least relevant of them are not without 

According to the classical mythology, when Orion's two 
daughters sacrificed themselves for Thebes, two young 
men sprang from their ashes. Ovid describes the goblet 
presented by Anius, the priest-king of Delos, to ^neas, as 
carved with a representation of the scene : 

" Out of their maiden embers, lo ! twin youths, 
Lest the race fail, arise, Coronce named, 
And lead the funeral pomp,"^ 

Although the poet speaks of the devoted virgins as their 
mothers, we shall probably not be far wrong in conjecturing 
that the youths were originally regarded as new and worthier 
manifestations of the maidens whose virile courage had not 
hesitated at self-inflicted death, in pursuance of the oracle, 
to save their devoted city from the plague. However this 
may be, elsewhere we frequently find stories of men who 
have died and been born again. The Mogul emperor Akbar 
is said to have declared that he had formerly been a Brum- 
huchari, named Mukundu. Worldly desires were excited 
in his mind by cow's hairs in some milk which he had 
drunk; and he began to long for wisdom and greatness. 
The pipul-tree under which he was sitting had the power 
of granting any wish. Therefore, laying hold of it, he 

1 Ovid, Metam.^ xiii. 697. 


renounced life in Gunga, and reappeared as Akbar.^ A 
Mongolian tale relates that Sheduir Van, a Khotogait 
prince, having been guilty of plotting insurrection against 
the emperor of China, was caught and condemned to 
execution. Before being beheaded, he said : " I am to be 
executed; but that is no misfortune; my soul shall enter 
the womb of the emperor's wife." The empress accordingly 
gave birth t§ a son, who had a cicatrice on the neck. The 
wise men advised the emperor that the soul of Sheduir Van 
had entered her womb. The child was therefore destroyed. 
The empress conceived once more, and bore a son with a 
scar. The emperor, again advised by his wise men that 
this was the soul of Sheduir Van, ordered the babe to be 
thrown into the fire ; but the charcoal went out and changed 
into water. After this, we are told that the soul of Sheduir 
Van did not again enter the empress' womb, but revealed 
itself as a hairless bay mare, whose hide is preserved to the 
present day.^ 

Like the story of the great monarch Akbar, that of 
Sheduir Van has probably been influenced by Buddhistic 
thought. But in both cases the influence would be that of 
Buddhistic thought only as popularly understood. The 
common people of India, we may safely assume — still less 
the tribes of Tibet and the practical Chinese — never 
absorbed into their minds the abstract doctrines of Karma 
and the Skandhas. It is, indeed, more than doubtful 
whether these philosophical speculations have ever pene- 
trated the intellects of the greatest doctors of the Northern 
Church. The current belief is illustrated in the Chinese 
tales I have quoted. Even more strikingly is it exempli- 

^ Southey, ii. Coimnoyiplace Bk., 435, quoting Ward, i. Hindoos, 54. 
■^ Gardner, in iv. F.L. Journ., 30. 


fied in the successive incarnations which provide a perpetual 
succession of Grand Lamas at Lhasa, and of skooshoks for 
minor monasteries. While as to the Southern Church, we are 
not dependent for our assumption upon the folklore and the 
general culture of the Cingalese and the peoples of Further 
India. In ihtjatakas, or parables attributed to Gautama, 
we have irrefragable witness of the teaching current from a 
very early period in Buddhist history. They are apologues, 
most of them probably of much older date, which have 
acquired sacredness by being fitted to alleged events in the 
ministry of the Buddha. The Master is represented as 
taking occasion, from some remark made by his disciples 
upon a passing occurrence, to declare that in a former birth 
the same things had happened to them ; and in illustration 
of his statement he tells the tale. The following may stand 
for a typical conclusion or application. It is that of the 
parable of the cruel crane outwitted by the crab : " When 
the Teacher had finished this discourse showing that ' Not 
now only, O mendicants, has this man been outwitted by 
the country robe-maker, long ago he was outwitted in the 
same way,' he established the connection, and summed up 
the Jataka, by saying, ' At that time he [the crane] was the 
Jetavana robe-maker, the crab was the country robe-maker, 
but the Genius of the Tree was I myself.' " To the person- 
ages of the tale is thus ascribed complete identity with the 
Buddha and his contemporaries. Transmigration^ in short, 
as conceived in popular Buddhism, was no product of the 
subtleties of Hindu metaphysics. It was no refined philo- 
sophical doctrine. It is undiscoverable in the Rig- Veda, 
the earliest sacred book of the Sanskrit-speaking conquerors 
of India. Its ethical value, even, if we may judge from the 
Jdtakas, was of the smallest. Such as it was. Transmigration 


was a direct evolution of the more savage belief in Trans- 
formation, as we have seen that belief exemplified in the 
present chapter, and hardly distinguishable from it, either 
in its terms or in its consequences. 

Far in the west the Celts are reported to have held the 
dogma of Transmigration. This report, coming to us from 
writers imbued with Greco-Roman philosophy, and inter- 
preting, according to the custom of classical antiquity, the 
religions of barbarous races in the terms of their own, 
has been understood to imply an elaborate philosophical 
system such as those of Pythagoras and Buddha. That the 
Celts had imbibed Buddhist theories we cannot suppose. 
The doctrines of Pythagoras may, indeed, have penetrated 
into Gaul by commercial routes or by contact with Greek 
colonies. Yet, if they did, it is strange that no other vestige 
of the Pythagorean philosophy is imputed to the Celts, and 
that the Druid ical religion, whereof we are told the dogma 
in question was part, blossomed, as it is said to have done, 
most perfectly in Britain, where it was furthest removed 
from all foreign influences. We know directly little con- 
cerning Druidism. Our knowledge, as far as it goes, leads 
us to think the religion of the ancient Britons and Gauls 
was of the same general character as other barbarous cults. 
Arising thus from the common ground of savagery, there 
is no reason why Celtic opinion may not have begun to 
develop in the same direction as popular Buddhism. 
Neither Celtic mythology, however, as known to us, nor 
Celtic folklore, as reported by mediaeval and modern 
writers, affords ground for supposing that metempsychosis 
in any philosophical sense was part of the ancient Celtic 
creed. In touching, a few pages back, on Barguests, as 
ghosts in animal mould are technically called, we disposed 


of the most salient point of modern Celtic folklore, for we 
found it to be an expression^ in no way divergent from that 
of other uncultivated peoples, of the universal doctrine of 
Transformation. We shall now briefly discuss the ex- 
amples to be found in what remains to us of the ancient 

The story of Taliessin, though only found in a manu- 
script of the seventeenth century, comes, it is generally 
conceded, within this category; for its coincidences with 
the older Celtic traditions are too striking to allow of any 
other explanation. Ceridwen, the wife of Tegid the Bald, 
had, among other children, a son of such extreme ugliness 
that she thought he was not likely to be admitted amongst 
men of noble birth unless he had some exalted merits or 
knowledge. So she undertook, with the aid of the books 
of Fferyll — that is to say, Vergil the Magician, a character 
which Vergil the poet is made to sustain in mediaeval 
tradition — to boil a caldron of Inspiration and Science for 
his benefit. Now, this caldron required to be boiled for a 
year and a day ; at the end of which time three precious 
drops would be obtained, the rest of its contents being 
poisonous, and indeed highly explosive. The caldron 
was placed in charge of Gwion the Little and a blind man 
named Mordav, while Ceridwen herself went to gather 
herbs of virtue. But before the expiration of the year and 
a day the three precious drops flew out of the caldron and 
fell upon Gwion's finger, which he instinctively put to his 
mouth to allay the scalding. He at once became possessed 
of all knowledge, and foresaw his danger from Ceridwen's 
rage when she found her preparations had been in vain. 
He, therefore, fled, hotly pursued by the witch. To elude 
her he changed into a hare, whereupon she took the shape 


of a greyhound. He ran towards the river, and became a 
fish, to chase which she assumed the form of an otter. 
Gwion then flew up as a bird. He soon found himself 
followed by a hawk, which was no other than his enemy ; 
and just as she was about to stoop upon him he dropped 
among a heap of winnowed wheat on the floor of a barn, 
and turned himself into one of the grains. From a 
hawk to a black hen the transformation was easy; and 
Ceridwen thus pecked up the grain in question and 
swallowed it. She became by this means pregnant, and 
gave birth to a beautiful boy — a new manifestation of 
Gwion the Little ; and when he was born she wrapped 
him up in a hide and cast him into the sea, by which he 
was ultimately thrown upon the w^eir of Gwyddno. From 
thence he was rescued to become the king of the bards, 
Taliessin.i Two poems attributed to Taliessin enumerate 
many more metamorphoses than are mentioned in the tale. 
The exact date of these poems is, in the present state of 
Welsh scholarship, unascertainable ; but they are certainly 
not later than the fourteenth century. One of them speaks 
of the poet's original country as the region of the summer 
stars, and identifies him with Merlin and other sages and 
bards. Confining our attention, however, to the narrative, 
we may lay aside the earlier changes as links of a chain of 
incidents common in fairy-tales, and known technically as 
the Transformation-fight. An example of it familiar to 
every reader is the contest between the princess and the 
Jinn in the story of the Second Calender in the Arabian 
Nights. These changes are not effected by death and 
birth as are the ones we are considering now. In the final 

1 Mabinogion^ 471. Cf. Prof. Rhys' exposition of the story, Hibbert 
Lectures^ 543. 


change, on the other hand, Gwion is devoured by the 
witch and reproduced as her son, just as Bata is swal- 
lowed in the shape of a splinter of the persea-tree by the 
king's Favourite, and born again of her, to become her 

So far the Welsh mythology: a parallel instance is 
afforded by the Erse. Both have suffered from the 
Euhemerism of the Middle Ages that has preserved them 
for us; but the true lines of the tales are not too far 
obliterated for our present purpose. The story of Tuan 
mac Cairill, then, as we find it embalmed in the Irish 
chronicles, makes him the sole survivor of the band of 
Partholon, who first colonised the island after the Deluge. 
Fallen into decrepitude after many years, he saw a new 
immigration led by Nemed, flying from which he fasted 
three days, lay down to sleep and was changed into a stag. 
Again he fell into old age, fasted, and was metamorphosed 
into a wild boar. Meanwhile, the descendants of Nemed 
had all died out. Semion, then, the ancestor of the three 
tribes of the Fir Domnann, the Fir Bolg and the Galiiiin, 
established himself in the land. After a time the pro- 
cess was repeated, and Tuan became a great sea-eagle. 
Beothach, from whom descended the Tuatha De Danann, 
seized the island, and afterwards the sons of Mile, whose 
descendants are the living race. The sea-eagle found 
himself in the hole of a tree on the bank of a river. 
There he fasted nine days, and, sleeping, awoke as a 
salmon in the stream. For a long time he escaped the 
fishermen's nets ; at last he was caught and carried to the 
wife of Carell, king of that district. She saw the fish, 
longed for it, cooked it, and ate it up. But this was far 
from being the end of Tuan. From her he was born again. 


wise man and prophet, and was called Tuan, son of Carell 
He lived not only to be baptized at the coming of Saint 
Patrick, but to converse with Saint Columba, and to narrate 
the whole history of Ireland, as he remembered it during 
his various transformations, to Saint Finnen in the middle 
of the sixth century. All the ancient history, all the old 
genealogies rest upon his authority.^ 

Etain, another mythological figure of Ireland, had a 
somewhat similar adventure. She was one of the two 
wives of Mider, who belonged to the Tuatha De Danann. 
Oengus, son of the Dagde, and foster-son of Mider, carried 
her off, and she became his wife. Her first husband, 
however, had not ceased to remember her, and he sought 
if by any means he might recover her. His other wife, 
bent on frustrating him, and watching her opportunity, sent 
a wind that blew Etain out of the bower built for her by 
Oengus, and deposited her on the roof of a house where the 
lords of Ulster and their wives were engaged in a drinking- 
bout. Upon the table beneath stood a golden cup of beer 
beside one of the ladies. From the roof, by the opening 
which did duty for a chimney, Etain fell into the cup. 
The lady swallowed her unperceived in the next draught, 
and gave birth to her again after nine months. Thus 
Etain began a new life. She became the loveliest of Irish 
maidens, and wedded the supreme king Eochaid Airem, 
who reigned at Tara. But Mider had not yet ceased to 
love her. Disguised as a warrior, he sought the king and 
challenged him to a game of chess. When the board was 
set : " Play," said he to the king. " I do not play without 
stakes," replied the monarch. Mider, on his side, bet fifty 

^ D'Arbois de Jubainville, Cycle Myth., 47, citing the Leabhar na 
h Uidhre and two other Mss. 


brown horses, large-breasted, with Hmbs slender and agile. 
" For my part," said the king, sure of success, " if I lose, I 
will pay what you like." They played ; the king lost, and 
Mider demanded his wife. The king objected that he was 
entitled to his revenge ; and his adversary, with a bad 
grace, yielded. A year passed, during which the king saw 
nothing of Mider ; though he often appeared to Etain and 
wooed her, but without success ; for she proved faithful to 
her husband. At the end of the year Mider came and 
claimed the second game. They played; again Eochaid 
lost, and Mider demanded to put his arms around Etain 
and give her a kiss. " Come back in a month," replied the 
king, " and it shall be granted you." When the fatal day 
arrived, his rival found Eochaid surrounded by his warriors, 
the fortress closed and guarded on every side. The day 
passed, and no antagonist presented himself. But at night 
Mider stood all at once in the midst of the hall, the 
beautiful Mider, more beautiful than ever. No one had 
seen him enter. The lady blushed when he boldly named 
his errand. " Do not blush," quoth Mider ; " thou hast no 
reason to reproach thyself. For a whole year I have not 
ceased to woo thee with jewels and wealth — thee, the 
fairest of the women of Ireland ] and thou hast refused to 
listen to me so long as thy husband gave thee no per- 
mission." "I have told thee," replied she, "that I will not 
follow thee, unless my husband yield me. I will only be 
taken if Eochaid give me to thee." " I will not give thee," 
cried the king. " I only consent that he put his arms 
around thee here in this hall, as has been agreed." "It 
shall be done," said Mider. Laying his lance in his left 
hand, he seized Etain with his right ; and, rising in the 
air, he disappeared with her through the smoke-hole in 


the palace-roof. The warriors that surrounded the king, 
ashamed at their own impotence, rushed from the hall to 
pursue the fugitives. They only saw, high above Tara, two 
swans whose long white necks were encircled and bound 
together by a yoke of gold. The story adds that afterwards, 
by the magical might of his Druids, Eochaid forced an 
entrance to the mysterious subterranean palace of Mider 
and took possession once more of his wife, so lovely, so 
beloved. But Mider's hate was one day revenged on the 
posterity of Eochaid and Etain by the tragic death of 
Conaire, their grandson. ^ The Druidical doctrine of 
metempsychosis would appear, alike from these ancient 
mythological tales and from modern folklore, to have been 
nothing more than Transformation as we find it among 
savages in all parts of the world. 

Before turning to rites and superstitious beliefs, we may 
notice the legend of Oankoitupeh, son of the Red Cloud, 
the hero of the North American Maidus. A maiden sees 
a beautiful red cloud, and hears sweet music. The next 
day, while picking grass-seed pinole, she finds an arrow 
trimmed with yellow-hammer feathers; and suddenly a 
man is standing beside her, who is none other than the red 
cloud she had seen the day before. The bright and 
resplendent stranger declares his love; and the maiden 
replies : " If you love me, take and eat this basket of grass- 
seed pinole." He touches the basket, and its contents 
vanish. Thereupon the girl swoons. When she returns to 
consciousness, behold ! she has given birth to a son. The 
Red Cloud tells her : "You love me now; that is my boy, 
but he is not of this world. ... He shall be greater than 

^ Ibid., 312. Finn mac Cumhail too had previously lived as Mongan. 
Ibid., 337. 


all men ; he shall have power over all, and not fear any 
that live. Therefore shall his name be Oan-koi-tu-peh (the 
Invincible). Whenever you see him, think of me. This 
boy has no life apart from me; he is myself "^ Compare 
with this the statement concerning Cuchulainn, one of the 
epic heroes of Ireland. It will be recollected that he was 
a new birth of the god Lug. The great epic cycles took 
final shape after the wars with the Danes in the eleventh 
century. One of the manuscripts of that period relates 
that the men of Ulster took counsel about Cuchulainn, 
because they were troubled and afraid that he would perish 
early, "so for that reason they wished to give him a wife 
that he might leave an heir ; for they knew that his re-birth 
would be of himself."^ 

These passages, though related of more than common 
men, point to a belief shared by the ancient Irish with the 
ancient Californians, that the son is in some sense identical 
with his father — a new birth, a new manifestation of the 
same person. This curious belief finds categorical ex- 
pression in the great Brahman compilation known as 
the Laws of Mann. There we are told: "The husband, 
after conception by his wife, becomes an embryo and 
is born again of her ; for that is the wifehood of a wife, 
that he is born again by her."^ Corresponding with this 
declaration, the ritual prescribes, among other ceremonies 
when a boy is born, that the husband should address 
the babe thus : " From limb by limb thou art produced ; 
and of the heart thou art born. Thou indeed art the self 
{atinan) called son ; so live a hundred autumns." In the 

^ Powers, Tribes of California, iii. Contrib. N. Amer. Ethn., 299. 
^ The Wooing of Emer, translated by Prof. Kuno Meyer, i. Arc> 
Rev., 70. 3 XXV. Sacred Bks., 329. 


same words he addresses the boy every time he himself 
returns from a journey, embracing his head and kissing 
him thrice.^ 

Traces of the notion that a child is neither more nor less 
than the reappearance of an ancestor are found almost all 
over the world. It seems to be a general opinion among 
the Negroes of the western coasts of Africa that the ghostly 
self of a dead man enters the body of a newborn babe 
belonging to the same family. In Guinea, and among the 
Wanika, the resemblance, physical or mental, borne by a 
child to its father is attributed to this cause. The Yorubas 
inquire of their family god which of the deceased ancestors 
has returned, in order to name the child accordingly -, and 
they greet its birth with the words " Thou art come ! " as if 
addressing some one who has returned. ^ On the Gold 
Coast, parents who have lost several children sometimes 
cast into the bush the body of the infant who has last died. 
They believe the next born to be the same child returned ; 
and if it have any congenital deformity or defect, that is 
attributed to injuries received from wild beasts or other 
evil influences in the jungle.-"^ Caution, however, is required 

1 Grihya-Sutm of Hiranyakesin, xxx. Sacred Bks., 211. Grihya- 
S^tra of Asvalayana, xxix. Sacred Bks., 183. Chinese ritual, in its 
insistence on the necessity of personation of the dead at solemn 
sacrifices by his grandson, or some one else of the same surname, 
points to the same doctrine. See especially The Lz-Kt, xxvii. Sacred 
Bks., 337 ; xxviii. 243. 

2 Feathcrman, Nigritians, 447 ; Tylor, ii. Prim. Cul. , 4 ; Wimvood 
Reade, 539 ; Ploss, i. Kind, 259, citing Bastian. Ellis, Yortiha, 128, 
says the inquiry is made of a priest of Ifa, the god of divination. It is 
believed by one of the Ewe tribes, neighbours of the Yoruba, that the 
lower jaw is the only part of the body which a child derives from its 
mother, all the rest being from the ancestral Ulwoo or hra. The father 
furnishes nothing. Ibid. 131 note. ^ Burton, ii. Wanderings, 174. 


in dealing with some of these cases, for the subtlety of 
savage metaphysics is marvellous. An acute observer 
points out that among the Tshi-speaking peoples of the 
Gold Coast and the Ewe-speaking tribes of the Slave Coast, 
a distinction is drawn between the ghostly self that con- 
tinues the man's existence after death in the spirit-world, 
and his kra or Twli^ which is capable of being born again 
in a new human body. In the eastern Ewe districts and 
in Dahome the soul is, by either an inconsistency or a 
subtlety, believed to remain in the land of the dead and 
to animate some new child of the family at one and the 
same time ; but it never animates an embryo in a strange 
family.^ Not very different seems to be the opinion of the 
Khonds of Orissa. Anthropologists have often quoted 
Macpherson's description of the divination for determining 
a child's name. The priest drops grains of rice into a cup 
of water, naming with each grain a deceased ancestor. 
From the movements of the seed in the fluid, and from 
observations made on the infant's person, he pronounces 
which of the progenitors has reappeared in it ; and the 
babe is usually named accordingly. Khond psychology 
endows every one with four souls. Out of such a company 
there is no difficulty in arranging that one of them shall be 
attached to some tribe and perpetually born again into it. 
This, in fact, is what is beheved to happen. ^ 

In New Zealand the priest, after certain ceremonies, 
first recited to the child the following stave : 

^ Ellis, Tshi-speaking Peoples^ 149; Ewe-speaking Peoples, 114; 
Burton, ii. Gelele, 158 ; ii. Wanderings, 173. 

- Macpherson, Memorials, 72, 92, 134. But see as to the Kols, 
who perform a similar ceremony without the same ancestral reference, 
Dalton, 295. 


" Wait till I pronounce your name. 
What is your name ? 
Listen to your name, 
This is your name " 

Then followed strings of ancestral names, until the babe 
sneezed. The name being uttered at the moment of the 
sneeze was the one chosen.^ We are not expressly told 
that the object of this rite was to identify the child with 
one of his forefathers. But, as Dr. Tylor remarks, we may 
always suspect it in such a case ; and the verses seem to 
point to some such purpose. It was difficult to distinguish 
between gods and ancestors among the Maori,^ as, in truth, 
it often is, if we may not use a stronger expression, among 
savage peoples. The worship of the kindred inhabitants of 
Samoa was totemistic. During the mother's labour, first 
the family god of the father, and then that of the mother was 
invoked. The god being invoked at the instant of birth 
was looked upon as the child's special aitu (Maori, atud) or 
god ; and during infancy the child was called and actually 
named " merda of Tongo " or " of Satia," or whatever other 
deity it might be.^ This would seem to go a step beyond 
the Maori creed, and to indicate that at one time the child 
was identified with the totem-god. In the island of Aurora, 
New Hebrides, where the people are Melanesians, women 
often speak of a child as the nunu^ or echo, of some dead 
person. Dr. Codrington says : " It is not a notion of 
metempsychosis, as if the soul of the dead person returned 
in the newborn child; but it is thought that there is so 
close a connection that the infant takes the place of the 

1 Tylor, 184. 2 Ibid., 36. 

3 Turner, Samoa, 16, 77, 78 ; Polynesia, 174, 178, 238. 


deceased. "1 We may set this explanation beside the state- 
ment quoted by Dr. Tylor from Charlevoix that "some 
North American Indians were observed to set the child in 
place of the last owner of its name, so that a man would 
treat as his grandfather a child who might have been his 
grandson. "2 Whatever may be the fact as regards the 
Melanesians, it is certain that North American tribes, like 
the Mengwe and the Thlinkits, believed in the new birth of 
the dead. Among the latter, if a pregnant woman dreamed 
of a dead man, it was said that the ghost had taken up its 
abode in her body ; and if a newborn child had the least 
resemblance to a deceased relative, the latter was believed to 
have returned, and the child was called by his name.^ 
Even in Norway, if a pregnant woman dream of one who 
is dead, the child must be named after him. If the dream 
be of a man, and a girl be born, the man's name must be 
feminised, and vice versa. If she dream of more than one 
person, the names of all must be given.* The last practice 
perhaps resulted from the uncertainty as to which of the 
dead who appeared was to be identified with the coming 
stranger. Returning to America, we find that the Tacullies 
and Sicamies, tribes allied to the Thlinkits, inquire of the 
dead if they will return to life or not. The shaman inspects 
the naked breast of the body, and if satisfied on the point 
he blows the soul into the air, that it may seek a new body 
or puts his hands on the head of one of the mourners, 
thereby conveying the spirit into him, to be embodied in 
his next offspring. The relation thus favoured, we are 

^ xviii. Jotcm. Anthr. Inst.^ 311. - Tylor, ii. Prim. Cul., 4. 

2 Featherman, Aoneo-Mar., 31, 392; iii. Bancroft, 517. See also 
Tylor, ii. Prim. CtiL, 3 ; Niblack, in Rep. Nat. Mus. {1888), 369. 
■* Liebrecht, 311. 


told, added the name of the deceased to his own.i i|- ig 
said that the Dakotas beUeved that their medicine-men and 
women ran their career four times in human shape.- In 
the Amazons Valley the Ticunas, and yet further to the 
south the Bakairi and their allied tribes, name a child from 
one of its forefathers. In Southern India the same practice 
is followed by the Yenadies;^ and, indeed, it may be said, 
whatever be its motive, to be a common practice in many 
parts of the globe. An Esthonian babe is baptized by the 
name of one of its grandfathers.^ In the Romagna it is 
usual to give the names of grandfathers, uncles and other 
relatives, to children, but not the names of relatives who 
are living, lest their death be accelerated — a vague 
reminiscence probably of the real reason.^ Elsewhere in 
Italy the superstition that a baby is a dead relative returned 

1 iii. Bancroft, 517. Did Bancroft read his authority aright ? Tylor, 
citing Waitz, states that it was the child who bore not only the name 
but the rank of the deceased. I have preferred to cite Bancroft both 
because the statement is second-hand, instead of third-hand (I have no 
access to the original), and because it tells somewhat less strongly in 
favour of the argument. 

2 Bourke, in ix. Rep. Bur. Etlm.^ 470, quoting Schultze, Feticlnsm 
(New York, 1885). 

3 iii. Trans. Ethnol Soc.,N.S., 18S, 375; Von den Steinen, 334, 434. 
^ Featherman, Dravt'diam, 491. 

^ Placucci, 78, 23. The reason, however, may be derived from the 
belief that to bestow the name is to bestow a part of the life of the 
original owner of the name, who would thus lose it. The same 
ambiguity attaches to a superstition in the province of Posen (Polish 
Prussia), where, if a child die and the next year another child be born, 
it must not receive the name of the dead child lest it also die. iii. 
Zeits.f. Volksk., 233. This would seem to amount to complete identity, 
or else to some evil influence in the name, or perhaps to a mistake as 
to the identity on the part of some malicious spirit who had a spite 
against the dead child. At Chemnitz, if the first children take their 


appears to be extant.^ Among the Andaman islanders, " if 
a woman who has lost a baby be about to become a 
mother, the name borne by the deceased is bestowed on 
the foetus, in the expectation that it will prove to be the 
same child born again. Should the infant at birth prove 
to be of the same sex as the one who had died, the identity 
would be considered sufficiently established."^ The same 
belief was current among the people of Old Calabar.^ 
Huron philosophy posited the existence of two souls in a 
man. One was changed into a turtle-dove, or went to the 
village of souls. The other remained attached to the body, 
never to leave it "unless some one gave birth to it again." 
The Hurons, moreover, as we have seen, buried in the road 
their little children who died, in order that they might 
secretly enter into the wombs of passing women, and be 
born again.4 As to the beliefs of the Eskimo there seems 
a little question. As to their practice of naming children 
after deceased persons (either relatives or intimate friends) 
there is no doubt. Dr. Tylor cites from Crantz the asser- 
tion that a helpless widow would seek to persuade some 
father that the soul of a dead child of his had passed into a 
living child of hers, or vice versa^ thus gaining to herself a 
new relative and protector. Dr. Rink, on the other hand, 
considers that the deceased person whose name a child 

parents' names they die before the parents. Grimm, Tetit. Myth. , 1778. 
These cases want further inquiry. As to the renewal of family names 
by giving them to children, see Tylor, ii. Frim. Cul, 4; Kaindl, 6; 
Finamore, Trad. Pop. Ab?:, 74. 

^ Pigorini-Beri, ?>'^. 

2 E. H. Man, in yX\. Joiirn. Anthr. Inst.^ 155. 

^ Burton, Wit and Wisdom^ 376. 

* Relations des /estates (1636), translated by Miss Nora Thomas, 
V. Rep. Bur. Ethn., 114, iii. 


bore was only looked upon as a kind of guardian spirit. 
His statement, however, that the child when grown up 
was bound to brave the influences that had caused 
his namesake's death — for instance, if the namesake had 
perished at sea, his successor had all the greater induce- 
ment to become a skilful kayakcr — points to identity ; 
and so do the stories I have cited from Rink's collection 
in previous pages.^ It may be suggested that the dis- 
crepancy is to be accounted for by the gradual change 
in Eskimo ideas under contact with civilised travellers 
and missionaries. 

We have now reviewed a large number of mdrchen 
wherein the hero or heroine is said to have suffered by 
death and new birth transfiguration into a variety of forms, 
both brute and human. We have, moreover, found the 
same plot in sagas in both hemispheres. And, advancing 
to savage theory and its correlative customs, I hope I 
have made it plain that stories of metamorphosis, whether 
mdrcheii or sagas, have been founded upon the belief that 
at death men are not annihilated, but pass into fresh forms, 
sometimes appearing as plants and trees, sometimes as 
animals of the lower creation, and sometimes as men and 
women born again into their own kindred or among stran- 
gers. This is a creed held so widely that — though subject, 
perhaps, to varying stress, according to the degree and 
direction of the evolving civilisation, or, possibly yet more, 
to the different capacities and opportunities of travellers who 
report the characteristics of savage life and thought often 
far removed from their own — it may yet be regarded as 
practically universal. I have not attempted to distinguish 

^ Tylor, ii. Prim. Cut., 3; i. Crantz, 161, 200; Rink, 44, 54, 64, 
434; vi. Rep. Bur. Ethn., 612. Atite, pp. 75, 196. 



between Transformation and Transmigration. When a man, 
either without passing through death and birth, or passing 
through death only, changes into a wolf or an ant, it is no 
more than Transformation. But if the metamorphosis be 
effected by death and growth into a tree, or a fresh birth 
from brute or human mother, it is obvious that there is 
more difficulty in affirming identity between the new sub- 
stance and the old. In some cases, if we may trust our 
authorities, and if we rightly interpret the tales and ritual 
and beliefs they report, the savage sets this difficulty at de- 
fiance : the proofs of identity overcome it. Oftener, it 
may be, the identity estabhshed is of an inner and more 
elusive self. For want of a better word we call this 
kernel of a man his soul, or spirit, both of which words 
connote to us an immaterial object, with none of the attri- 
butes of physical existence. To the savage, however, as to 
our own forefathers, and to the folk of all civilised countries 
still, the idea of an incorporeal soul is incomprehensible. 
He may not be able to see it at all times ; he may not be 
able to handle it when he will : but this kernel, this inner 
self, of friend or foe, comes to him in dreams ; he beholds 
it in the snake or the toad, the insect or the dove, that 
haunts the tomb of one who was dear to him, or in the rose- 
bush or the lily growing upon the grave ; or he fetches it 
back in the shape of a white stone to his beloved child, who 
has sickened at its absence, and is like to die. Thus it is 
everywhere in the lower culture conceived as material, 
though capable of changing its form and appearance with- 
out losing its identity. And this identity is the real identity 
of the man, suffusing and transfusing his entire being. 
Hence the dividing line between Transformation and Trans- 


migration is frequently so thin and faint. Transmigration 
as popularly understood (for I am not speaking of the 
speculations of philosophers, whether Indian or Greek) is 
a natural and imperceptible development of Transforma- 
tion. As regards the popular Buddhistic belief of ancient 
Hindustan I have already shown this from the Jdtakas ; 
and what is true of that holds good of other popular forms 
of belief, at all events where Judaism and its daughter-faiths, 
Christianity and Mohammedanism, have not too deeply 

Some races, as we have seen, divide the soul into two 
or more entities, whereof one alone may be capable of 
re-manifestation. To discuss the reason for this would lead 
us away from our subject. It will be enough to suggest 
that it is an attempt to escape from the dilemma imposed 
by the meeting of two or more lines of speculation as to 
the future life. A reconcihation must be attained between 
the reasoning which would lead to the beUef in a place of 
the dead elsewhere than here, and that which inclines to 
the opinion that the deceased remains among his friends, 
or amid his decaying dust, ready and eager to appear again. 
The divisibility of the inner self succeeds in this object ; 
and if we meet with such a device less frequently than we 
might expect, it is no doubt because the savage mind, 
unaccustomed to consecutive and abstract thought, is slow 
in realising a contradiction, and unwilling to solve the 
difficulty, unless where circumstances have compelled the 
attention and the necessary effort. 

The study of the belief in the re-incorporation of the 
soul in a human body has no direct bearing on the legend 
of Perseus, But some account of it was required to 


complete our view of savage thought upon the subject of 
Transformation by means of death and birth — a subject 
necessary to be understood in approaching the incident of 
the Life-token. To that incident we have next to address 

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at the Edinburgh University Press 

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The legend of Perseus; a study of 

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